21 March 2014


I got a lot of heat for my last post on Hungarian food, but I’m hoping that this time around there won’t be so many hurt feelings because I have nothing but good things to say about kürtőskalács. Kürtőskalács is the sweetbread of my dreams. Strips of bread are wrapped around a cylinder, painted with butter (the best kind of paint), rolled in sugar, and then roasted over coals. The sugar caramelizes into a kind of crust, and then some sort of topping is added to it, like crushed walnuts (gross) or cinnamon (delish) or coconut (grossest).
It is actually a dream of mine that one day I will be cast on some sort of game show in which you have to eat
your way out of something, and that this will be the something that I have to eat my way out of.
 This is such a Fall Fair food, and I really wish that it had accompanied the 100,000 Hungarians that rolled into Canada following 1956. (Speaking of Hungarian-Canadians: did you know that Alanis Morissette, William Shatner, and Elvis Stojko are all Hungarian-Canadians?) Can't you just picture yourself strolling the fair grounds at Rock Creek eating one of these things? It would be a way better addition to the fair-fare than Rotary's kettle corn, which is awful and I hate it. Right? There's something about these tubes of sweetened bread--they were made to be put in those cellphane bags and to be sold at an inflated price!

According to Wikipedia—and by the way, you have to read the entry because whoever wrote it really, really cares about this tube-cake—kürtőskalács was popular among the Hungarian nobility, which is really strange because its design demands a kind of playful consumption that totally negates any sort of refinement of the aristocracy. Like putting your arm through it. Or holding one end in your mouth and then unraveling it and trying to stuff the entire strand into your mouth. Or crumpling one end of the cylinder and then putting it in your mouth so it looks like a horn. It's also hard for me to believe that these were ever the food of the aristocracy because now I can't think about them without thinking about Rock Creek.
These are the only Hungarian aristocrats I am aware of. Rakoczi is obviously everyone's fav, but between Baroness
Orczy (perhaps better known to you as Emma Magdolna Rozália Mária Jozefa Borbála "Emmuska" Orczy de Orczi),
author of "The Scarlet Pimpernel," and
Erzsébet Báthory, mass murderer and blood enthusiast, I'm not sure which
one is worse. One thing is for sure: they all enjoyed kürtőskalács (except Báthory, who dined solely
on the blood of virgins).
It's worth pointing out that these chimney cakes are not exclusive to Hungary, but appear to be a popular treat in many places throughout Central and and Eastern Europe. I wonder what that means. I wonder what the hollowness symbolizes. Do you think that they have a gaping void where everyone else has a soul? Do you think that the hollow kürtőskalács is an emptiness that echoes back our own sadness? Do you think that if you long long enough into an abyss, the abyss looks back at you? Do you think the breaded coils signify that we are trapped in a meaningless and empty world, doomed to repeat itself over and over again, just as the sweetened dough wraps around the ever turning spindle? Do the coals signify the ever-burning fires of hell? Does the sugar coating represent the way that we deceive ourselves from recognizing the emptiness that resides inside us all? Do you think that the reason Alanis Morissette's mouth is so big is in order to fit around the circumference of a kürtőskalács? Do you think she will use it as a horn from which issues forth the eternal note of sadness?

It's weird that I am so into these chimney cakes because I've actually only ever had one. I bought it on a whim during a pub crawl of the seedy bars in all three of the Hungarian train stations. A man was walking up and down wearing a sandwich board advertising kürtőskalács, and although his sign put the idea in my head, these things look so good that they pretty much sell themselves.

I won't forgive Hungary for its cold-fruit-soup
But their losses they have managed to recoup
For make no mistake:
This Hungarian chimney takes the cake.

No longer reserved for the aristocracy—
From their gnarled, inbred grasp we snatch
The highly-coveted and deliciously-tubular kürtőskalács—
And now Hungary is a true democracy.

18 March 2014

"Dear Food Thoughtz:" Westboro Baptist Cheese

Dear Food Thoughtz:

I am writing to you to get your thoughtz and insights in to a problem I have. I hate cheese. Not the juvenile, melodramatic and catty “hate” exhibited by many reality TV stars, but the kind of hate usually reserved for the likes of the Westboro Baptist Church.

I’m not entirely sure when my distain for the food started, but it must have been at a very young age. My mother assures me that I once loved cheese and did in fact eat it, but that that changed quite suddenly. 
I only remember hating cheese. I don’t even like the thought of it touching anything I eat, it makes me ill thinking about it. This was especially problematic back before lactose intolerant was an acceptable thing to be in a restaurant. Back when they simply removed the offending item from your dish, rather than bothering to make a whole new one. I hated that. I used to go hungry in restaurants a lot.

Which brings me to the problem: How do you deal with situations in which there is no food you can eat?

Let me give you a scenario from my childhood that seemed a very real possibility at the time:

I grew up in Mexico. Which was great, and I loved it. There were, and still are, two problems in Mexico: (1) their love of cheese, and (2) kidnappings. I don’t think I’m the only one that would put those two at the top of the list— but I digress.

During part of my childhood we lived in a small town, with mostly unpaved or cobble-stone roads. There might have been 1000 people that lived there, so had we lived there for longer, I would have probably started to recognize almost everyone. But because we only lived there briefly, I didn’t know many people, and I didn’t know who’s house was who’s. Not that that is much of a problem in general, it was just that I was young and naive enough to believe what the other kids would tell me. There was this house along the route I took to school. It was rather run down, and looked generally uninhabited. My “friends” said it was the kidnappers house, and would walk a wide distance around the house. I walked by this house every day for months. After a while, the sight of the house and the stories gave rise to a peculiar fear: I wasn’t so much scared of being kidnapped, rather I was terrified that I’d only be fed quesadillas if I was. I was petrified of the possibility.

I don’t know if I can ask what you’d do in this scenario, but after reading you blog, I thought you—of all people—might understand how reasonable this unreasonable fear was.

Kidnapped with Quesadillas

Dear Kidnapped with Quesadillas,

Thank you for your thoughtful question framed in a story that was so enthralling that I totally forgot that there was a question to answer.

First of all, I think that what you've done here is subconsciously recognized an irrational fear of cheese and mapped it onto a (somewhat) rational fear of being kidnapped in order to make sense of it. Although, of course being fed quesadillas would hardly be the most horrific part of being kidnapped. I mean, I get how terrifying food can be sometimes, but I'm currently reading Jerzy Kosinki's The Painted Bird right now, so at this point, force-feeding a child a quesadilla would be a welcome repose to all of the other horrors you could inflict on it.

I have a hard time respecting your predicament because although the vast majority of cheese is revolting, some cheese--notably cheddar (not Coastal Cheddar), mozzarella, parmasan, and those delicious TexMex shredded cheese mixes--are so delicious that I just can't sympathize with your position even though I see a lot of my own food-fears in you. That said, I will try to overlook this so that we can move on.

The question, for those of you who have forgotten it, is how do I deal with situations in which there is no food that I can eat. I guess there are several answers depending on the context. If I was kidnapped and force-fed something, I guess that I would eat that thing and just hope that my fear of the whole kidnapping experience would override my fear of having to eat something that I hate. If I was being force-fed spaghetti squash, I guess I might throw it up (against my will). I think that if I was being held in some sort of room, and food was brought to me but I wasn't forced to eat it, I would probably try to not eat it. My will to live is almost non-existent, so I can't imagine convincing myself to continue eating some gross mush just to live one more miserable day.

Barring any extreme scenarios, if I am in a situation in which there is nothing I can eat, then I don't eat. I'm pretty good at gauging the situation before I get myself into it and planning ahead. If, for some reason, I felt obligated to go to an Ethiopian restaurant, I would obviously know ahead of time that I wouldn't eat anything there, so I would eat before hand. If I found myself in a situation where I thought I would be able to eat something only to discover that there is nothing for me, then I would wait until I could eat something.

Luckily I eat so many staple foods that I think I would be hard-pressed to actually be in a position where I would die if I didn't eat something that I didn't like. Of course there are some foods--spaghetti squash and boiled eggs are two examples--that I could never bring myself to eat no matter what. But there are also slight modifications of food that I already eat that I could probably bring myself to eat if I had to. One time I ate a weird rice dish on a plane.

I don't think I've addressed any of the things that perhaps you expected me to address. My thoughtz on your cheese-hatred is that it's weird to not like cheddar because it's so good, but like, whatever. Keep on hating cheese. Don't eat it. If someone offers you something with cheese on it, you have a few options. You can politely decline and not give a reason. You could politely decline and explain that you don't eat cheese because you hate it. You could show your disgust at their suggestion and then rant about what awful and disgusting people they are and picket their house with "GOD HATES FETA" signs, and when their dog dies tell them that the reason it died is because they are vile sinners and God is punishing them and will continue to punish them and everyone else until we all stop eating cheese. And to be fair, God probably does hate feta, and anyone who continues to flout God's wishes probably does deserve whatever comes to them because feta is disgusting.

Look. Your fear/hatred of cheese is unreasonable. I have a lot of unreasonable fear/hatred of a lot of different foods. If someone was going to make me eat a boiled egg, I would cry. My heart would start pounding and I would start to panic and sweat. I would make a lot of weird noises. I would resort to an all-out temper tantrum to try and get out of it. And at the time I would think that nothing could possibly violate me in a more harmful way than I was being violated at that moment. But their comes a point when you have to take solace in the fact that this is an unreasonable reaction to have to certain kinds of food and in knowing that all you can do is a start a blog that three people will read in the hopes of better understanding yourself. Above all, you can find comfort in the fact that your hatred of cheese is matched by God's hatred of feta and/or fags and that together you will watch the world burn for all of the disgusting things people choose to put into their orifices.

16 March 2014

Food Thoughtz Review: Coastal Cheddar

Even though Coastal Cheddar comes from Dorset, I assume the “coastal” refers to the Salish coast where all of those feet washed up on shore, because that’s exactly what this cheese tastes and smells like. This cheese was so disappointing because I love cheddar cheese so much. The sting is always worse when you’re betrayed by those you trusted the most and those you held the most dear. Finishing this block of cheese was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but last night, with a heaping bowl of wagon wheel pasta and spaghetti sauce, I did it—and I have never been more proud.
This actually is one of those mystery-foot shoes.

13 March 2014


I will be the first to admit that I don’t really know what marzipan is, but here is what I do know: I know that it’s sometimes hidden inside of what would otherwise be delicious chocolates; I know that it’s sculpted into elaborate cake decorations; I know that Hungary has dedicated an entire museum to it; and I know that it is made of a ground almond paste, with probably a few other ingredients like sugar and, heaven forbid, coconut.*

Based on this limited yet totally sufficient body of knowledge, I can conclusively say that while I will never eat marzipan, I am kind of drawn to the sculpted figurines.  And herein lies the problem: I don’t particularly like it when I am attracted to one aspect of a food (usually its form) by repulsed by another (usually its taste, or function**). 

Binaries typically provide a great and totally reliable lens through which to view the world, they provide structure and meaning in our lives, and most importantly, they can be used to unpack our troubling relationship with marzipan.  One way to apply the system of binaries is to consider the binary of function/form (even though “form/function” sounds better, I purposely put function before form so you can see how it’s privileged over form).  See how that worked?  Easy as pie!  These days it’s very en vogue to deconstruct binaries—or at least to talk about it a lot—but what these genderqueers don’t realize is that binaries are one of the most useful tools at our disposal when faced with a troublesome entity like marzipan.  If you want to deconstruct something, deconstruct some marzipan and throw out that almond paste.
Ugh. I don't even care about this picture. This entire post fell apart for me in a really big way, actually. If I didn't
value quantity so much more than quality, I definitely would not be posting it at all.

Even though we’ve already agreed that function eclipses form, it’s still worth talking about these confectionary creations because some of them are really elaborate.  It’s possible that I am so fascinated by marzipan sculptures because they come pretty close to that cartoon food realm that I am so enamoured by.  They’re not quite there only because they kind of remind me of claymation, which I am not really into.  They also kind of remind me of those little toys or figurines… I don’t know what they’re called or even how to describe them.  A lot of girls had them when I was little.  They were usually a cute puppy dog and were coated in a soft fuzz.  They also had a weird smell to them, always.  Does anyone know what I am talking about?  I hate those things and have always found them somewhat nauseating. Oh! Here’s a link to them! They are disgusting.

Ugh.  Okay.  Well, that tangent just made it more difficult for me to explain why I do kind of like marzipan aesthetically.  I guess maybe it has something to do with the craftsmanship.  I have no idea how they’re made, but I like to imagine it’s a process similar to blowing glass, which is one of the most fascinating things I’ve ever seen in my life. What I might be realizing through the process of writing this is that I actually do not like marzipan in any capacity. The idea of eating it is, of course, revolting. It must be way too sweet and have grains of sugar and also it’s almond paste. I also don’t understand what happens to a large marzipan sculpture once it has serve its purpose. Surely no one is going to eat 10lbs of marzipan. Do Play-Dough rules apply? Do you just try to separate the colours as best you can and stuff it back into little canisters for next time? I don’t understand. Everything about marzipan seems disgusting and deceiving and wasteful.

Worth mentioning is that at some point in the recent past, there was a rumour of marzipan-made  tiny babies circulating around the internet.  I have no idea how I missed this.  Although it was all a hoax, the truth is perhaps even stranger than fiction: these fit-in-your-palm sculpted newborns are actually created by a Powell River-based artist and sell for over $100, and worse yet, people actually buy these things.  At least one person in this world must have paid money for one of these little gremlins!  Anyway, it got to be enough of a problem that the woman had to include the question of whether or not these things are made from marzipan into her FAQ section.  Even though this marzipan baby myth was debunked, the threat remains.  Marzipan sculpture technique is progressing so rapidly that I fear that one day these will be a reality, and someone will pay money to adorn their baby shower cake with.

Sorry you guys, didn't mean to get up your hopes,
But that miniature basket of fruit is a mazipan-hoax.
Don't gobble up that decorative cake topping in such haste!
Don't you know that it's actually made of almond-paste?

*Update: apparently there is no coconut in marzipan, but if there was some, I really would not be surprised.  The same kinds of people who are into marzipan are probably into shredded coconut.  I have no basis for that accusation, but I’m still pretty certain it’s true.

**One might argue that the function of a food is nourishment, but when you’re dealing with marzipan… come on.

09 March 2014

"Dear Food Thoughtz:" Tips on re-using glass milk bottles

This edition of Dear Food Thoughtz is really not very engaging.  I would recommend skipping it.  But if you think you have a more interesting submission, please forward it to food.thoughtz@gmail.com
Dear Food Thoughtz

Of course you'll remember that time we found expensive bouge-y milk in beautiful glass bottles at Buy-Low, and how I bought it, even though I had to drive 7 hours back to Alberta and didn't really need to be buying expensive milk for the road. Well, now I need your help. I cannot figure out what to do with this big bottle. You'll see that I am ingeniously using the small bottle for my maple syrup, but I am at a total loss on how to use the big one. 

Your bouge-y sister
Dear Bouge-y Sister,

Let me begin by saying that I hope you don't regret the decision to buy this milk, because these bottles are beautiful and I'm sure will useful at some point.

The second thing I want to say is that I don't think you application of the smaller jar as a vessel for maple syrup is ingenious. You didn't ask for my advice on what to do with maple syrup, but nevertheless I would propose a bottle with a narrower mouth. I really don't like how this looks. I don't think it's working. You should buy a beer that comes in a bottle large enough to accommodate an entire tin of maple syrup. You might want to look specifically for one that has one of those hinge caps--I don't know what they're called, but Grolsch uses them--otherwise you would have to buy a bottle stopper. Which, actually, reminds me that you won that great prize pack from the Liquor Store & More that had about sixteen bottle stoppers in it.

Of course, if you decide to follow my suggestion and transfer the syrup from this current bottle into a different bottle, you will have to find a use for the smaller bottle. The main problem with the small jar is that there are very few liquids that you want such a small amount of that you would also want a wide jar opening through which to pour. I think maybe we're limiting ourselves by assuming that it has to be a liquid. What if you stored some sort of spice or grain in there? But, I mean, if it's going to be too much of a hassle to find another bottle that is better suited to hold the maple syrup, then I guess just leave it as is. I personally don't like it, but it seems like you're more willing to settle for less, so to each his own.

As for the larger bottle -- is it possible to use it for seasonal beverages? Don't you make iced tea or lemonade or something? Don't you want to have 2L of sidecars prepared in case your mother comes for a visit? I would recommend just storing it in the pantry until you feel the need to make 2L worth of a beverage. There are two potential benefits to this: 1) you might feel motivated to make more lemonade or iced tea (or sidecars) knowing that it will be an excuse to use this bottle; 2) because you won't be using the bottle everyday, you might appreciate it more the few times you do use it.

Also, wasn't it Overwaitea and not Buy-Low? I thought you bought the milk the same time you bought mum that ridiculous bag of chocolate covered popcorn or whatever it was.

08 March 2014

In Defense of Close Reading

I will be the first to acknowledge that I had my issues with this story, but at least I made it all the way to the end.
 Here's a tip for any of you who struggled to get all the way through this admittedly dense text: that weird shaggy dog wearing a hat ends up eating the green eggs and ham (pictured here as representative of Monsanto and GMOs) and is glad that he did.  I am not sure this is the best medium for the message.


Seriously, people should really read this thing all the way through.

05 March 2014

A Request

I've made a few requests so far on this blog. I asked for one of these Popin' Cookin' DIY Hamburger kit for Christmas, but no one delivered. Now I am asking for this set of four Cadbury "L'il Chocolatey Scoops." I actually need this, so please, somebody: make my dreams come true.
From NearOf (whatever that is):
Much like Terry's Chocolate Orange, this is a participatory treat that requires some thought before and during consumption. Instead of a whack-and-unwrap proposition, these encourage the eater to peel off the wrapper, crack off the top of the shell, and feast on the chocolate mousse filling inside with the help of the enclosed spoon. Super concept.
Aside from the great design, they found the chocolate almost inedible and advised readers not to buy. But still. I need it.

03 March 2014

Carrot Cake

Carrot cake reminds me of those educational computer games for children designed to make learning fun, like Reading Rabbit Oregon Trail: it always seems like a cheap way to disguise something that’s “good for you” with something you already enjoy.  But where Reader Rabbit and Oregon Trail succeed at least at being fun, if not being entirely educational,* carrot cake succeeds at nothing and fails at everything: it is neither a delicious sweet-treat, nor a delicious carrot-treat.  It seems unlikely that the history of carrot cake has anything to do with a frustrated mother trying to get her bratty kid to eat his vegetables for once, but it still kind of feels that way and it’s kind of insulting.  The cake is actually called carrot cake—you’re not fooling anyone.
Okay. Nevermind. I just Wikipedia’d it. It turns out that 1) carrots have been a common sweetener ingredient since the middle ages (which, for the record, is not a good period of time from which to get cooking tips) and 2) that carrot cake probably became popular during WWII because of sugar shortages.  (Also worth mentioning: weird conspiracy-theory posits that some sort of canned-carrot baron, George C. Page, actually manufactured the popularity of carrot cake in order to unload his “glut” of canned carrots in the US following WWII).  What we can take from this is that people use carrots for baking when they don’t have access to sugar.  I don’t know what the grocery stores are like in your area, but mine is pretty well-stocked with various sugar options.

It might surprise some of you that there was actually a time in my life when I liked carrot cake.  It’s hard to know when I stopped eating it, but thank god I did.**  There have been a few times that I’ve had to eat carrot cake, or have done so by accident. A shudder of horror goes down my spine every time my teeth came into contact with a hard piece of shredded carrot. It’s the same reaction I have to eating shredded coconut.  I’m guessing it’s because I would never actually eat either of these things, so it’s always a really unwelcome shock when I discover that they’re already in my mouth.  Not to make light of a serious issue or anything, but it might be a little bit like being stalked.  You tell someone no over and over and over again, and then one day you come home to find them in your house, lovingly playing with your dog (as if they’ve already been there) and you’re seized by blind terror before you can even process what is going on.  I guess the major difference is that with shredded carrot or coconut, you can just spit it out.  A relevant analogy nonetheless.

Before we get to the poem, I just want to say that I was really strongly inspired by this piece of work.  Poetry truly is the window to the soul.

 Carrot cake is a surprise:
Inside the cake a carrot lies.
Moist shredded carrot all a-glimmer
Embedded in the cake all a-shimmer.

I won’t eat my piece; it’s all for you
It’s too moist and mushy; too much like goo
A whole cake of carrots grated slivery
Is a vegan monster’s notion of heavenly

Its only saving grace is its topping,
But it’s not good enough to stop your moping
Nauseated from head to toe
Try to mask the taste with a cup of Joe

*Was the only learning point in Oregon Trail that life was hard at some point?  Because I feel like instead of just telling me that Ashley died of dysentery, they might have said something like, “Ashley died of dysentery.  It might have been caused by the 4000 pounds of rotting buffalo flesh you’re transporting.  You might also want to consider boiling your drinking water.”

**It might surprise you all to know that there were once quite a few things that I would eat that I no longer will.  I am tentatively working on a post that will hopefully explain the root of my trauma.  If you can’t wait to find out what that root is, the short answer is salmon pie.