Curses, my Flan has been foiled

it was such a great flan, every step carefully considered, every eventuality prepared for. With a nefarious laugh, I gathered the tools to hatch my evil flan. Pancake mix, eggs, the congealing blood red raspberry jam that clung to the sides of a near empty jar. Fluoride toxified tap water, an orange and the deadly spinning blades of an ancient blender. 

The innocent slab of butter began to sweat in its pan. Eventually collapsing completely in fear as I increased the heat. The rest of the prisoners waited complacently after I made an example of the orange by SKINNING IT IN FRONT OF THEM!

Next I cracked open the eggs and beat them mercilessly before casting their broken forms onto the violated afore mentioned  orange. I then cleverly hid the bodies by burying them under a cup of cement like pancake mix. I had forgotten the jam, knowing it could rat me out to the authorities I drowned it in the water, shaking the jar violently till its contents agitated and liquidizing this last witness.

I cast it onto the grave of the other condiments and hatched the next phase of my demented flan. Just when the food products thought my depravation had been sated, I cackled like a madman and pressed the sharp red button and to their terror, the blades at the bottom of the trap began to grind forward. Faster and faster they spun, shredding the last remaining dignity and firm resolve of my victims.

I poured the evidence of my violence onto the heated pan and in what can only be considered a twinge of guilt I covered their remains with a large metal lid.

The dogs began to bark.

Apprehensively I glanced towards the other room. Was their another witness to my evil? Had some passer by glanced in the window and by happenstance witnessed my horrifying act? I rushed to the next room, deadly spatula in hand, raised to strike at any hapless food product in the vicinity, but luckily, it was a false alarm. No random banana or meddling kidney beans, only an incontanant dog and her overexcited pup demanding temporary exit from my lair to relieve themselves of their burden.

I spent a few minutes groping for the dog chains, then a few more minutes untangling the braid the pair had made of the two leashes. Carefully I snapped the clasp on to each or their harnesses, and with gentle consideration removed the chairs from the area to keep the little darlings from entangling themselves…..MY FLAN!

Distracted by my canine companions I had forgotten my hostages. I flew back into the kitchen, fearful they had escaped. At first I could not tell, for they had concocted some sort of smoke screen to cover their escape, and as the alarms belatedly began to scream it’s warning I finally found the concequences of my mistake.

My glorious flan was ruined, foiled.

Somehow in the excitement my victims had escaped. Sneaking out through a vent or some other passage, while leaving a poor decoy of themselves in the pan. A dark blackened mess of some vile scraps sat in the pan instead,pillows under a cover, as if to taunt my failure.

Heartbroken I sat at the table, and in frustration, gnawed at the burned remnants of my flan. Relishing the ash like remains to remind me of my failure, but I am not defeated, not as long as there is a spatula in my hand.

I will strike again.

Soon my vegetable produce, soon.


Mustard’s natural mate

do you see that only yellow bottle in your fridge? Usually waiting to be Katchup’s sidekick? The heroic, but not hero of your burger? The Robin to Batman, Tonto to the Lone Ranger,  Vice President, of the hotdog bun? 

How sad, to always be second place, but there is one meaty byproduct that will always welcome Mustard as its crown. One sandwich that just isn’t complete without its sunny touch. Baloney
Yes, Baloney that round mystery meat that has topped sandwich bread for generations. Sliced from some never seen baloney meat animal, it tastes nothing like chicken, beef or pork, but stands alone, like rattlesnake meat in distinction, but as familiar as milk in the fridges of North America. 

We know the eggs come from chickens, the milk from a cow, but the baloney? The baloney comes from a package, and we are okay with that.

We happily take those round slices and slap them onto bread and top them with the afore mentioned mustard. A halo, or crown of yellow sauce that adds tang to our sandwich and zest to our lunch. 

The baloney is happy, the mustard is happy, and we are happy. What more can you ask from such delicious symmetry.  

Cheesy, bread review. 

FREE FOOD! I exclaim, as once again I am presented with a culinary treat to sample and critique. This time my culinary nemesis Malcolm has presented me with a loaf of what he calls, cheesy bread.

At once I have my suspicions, this is a man of adventuresome tastes who in the past has shared his stock of chocolate covered scorpions, water bugs and ants. He has promised there are no bugs incorporated in this treat. 

For bread, it is incredibly heavy. While not the density of lead, it could theoretically contain metal items. A prison escape kit perhaps? Mayhaps a file, mallet and small crowbar for the removal of sturdy bars. Or it just could be a very dense loaf of bread.

Slicing into it I find nothing inedible within. Alas, Malcolm has revielded himself to be a kindly yet law abiding citizen willing to bake a nutritious snack, but unwilling to engineer a jail break.

My first observation of the slice reveals the secret of the bread’s density. While most bread contains a multitude of tiny bubbles that would inspire Dean Martin to song, this loaf is compressed. The few sturdy air pockets quivering in strain under the crushing weight of the ingredients pressing in on them from all sides. 

it appears he had created the meal cube of science fiction. An entire nutritious meal contained in a pocket size cube that if expanded to the consistancy of a regular load of bread would overflow the room. 

The aroma wafting from the loaf certainly speaks of cheese. Even hours after its completion, the aroma of fresh baked goodness tickles the nostril. A first bite and the somewhat doughy mouthful fills the palate with a mild cheddar flavour with a hint of Monterey Jack. Another bite is chewed while butter is spread over the rest of the slice. Is it getting warm in here?

A bite of the buttered slice, the rich flavour is becoming more intense, and yes, it is definitely getting warmer in my mouth.

I slide the buttered slice into the microwave to melt the butter. Once again the structural integrity on the bread proves itself, as the melted butter rolls off its surface like rain water on a tin roof. The minute amount of butter that was able to penetrate casts a golden glow over the next few bites of warm bread. Another few bites of the tasty treat reviews the melted butter has not altered the flavour in any noticeable way. Except it seems each bite is warmer then before, and the heated butter is not the source, it’s the bread itself.

There is a distinct heat building in my mouth. I hold the bread close to my nose and under the cheese flavour I detect something else, I am not immediately sure what it is but at this close range I can clearly identify the red and green flecks that decorate the loaf. It’s peppers, then the underlying flavour becomes clear. Jalipino! 

Malcolm has introduced hot peppers to his bread and they have taken to it like Kubla Kahn to the plains. Like a horde of fiery horses ridden by an army of heated warriors, the peppers have swept over the bread and created a picant empire that now seeks to invade my mouth over the Great Wall of teeth that guard its entrance. Just like that thundering horde, the jalipinos began as a faint rumble over the horizon building in crescendo till it is too late and the slowly building heat is now unstoppable as it sweeps into the village of tastebuds and begins to rampage across my tongue. 

With little choice left in the matter I surrender to the pepper infused invaders and continue to consume my bread. Bite after bite, raising the heat, but never to an unbearable level. In time I acclimatize to this new sensation and begin to enjoy the heat. More a charming hearth fire keeping the cold at bay, then a rampaging inferno consuming everything in its path. The cheese flavour is never overpowered and eventually settles down to a rich Monterey Jack cheese flavour.

Toasted. Now this is a treat. Toasting a slice turns it into a single slice grilled cheese sandwich. Delicious and how I will consume the rest of the loaf.

The density of the bread, that could be engineered into construction material or used to prop up a corner of a couch is filling, both in taste and quantity and after a single slice I find myself full. Replacing the cap over the bread to keep it fresh, I leave it out for Luz, my wife to discover the Jalipino flavour herself. There’s no point in warning her, and hot food is her passion.

Even so, this loaf is so filling, I expect it will take several days to consume, but those days will be enjoyable now that we know what we are in for.

All in all a plesant and unique creation by Malcolm, barbarian horde master of the kitchen.

Time, the secret ingredient to eating better. 

Today we address the most important spice to make every meal better. Thyme…no,’s Time 

Taking that few extra minutes can turn your food into a meal or your supper into a dinner. Sure you can wolf down a prepackaged nutrients bar like some character from star trek eating foam squares. Toss a microwave dinner into the radiation machine and eat its alternating warm and almost frozen forkfuls. But aren’t your tastebuds and health worth a few minutes of your time?

Option 1

I use breakfast as an example. Rushing out the door to catch the bus I grab a tinfoil package of pressed flour product. Somewhere between crackers bread and cake, but not really any of the above. Pressed between the layers of unidentified product appears to be jam, so loaded with preservatives the colour is really the only similarity to fruit. This monstrosity is then coated with an icing that is more closely related to hard candy then frosting and hermetically sealed in a tinfoil pack with pop tart embossed on its face. A box of these 4 double packed foodlike items sells for about $3.50. So 2 pop tarts are about 82 cents.

Option 2

I spend 10 less minutes fussing with my hair, beard, Internet argument,cat video, and place 3 glorious eggs and a splash of milk in a bowl. I slice up two small succulent mushrooms and half a small rich red tomato while a pan heats on the stove. I pour the mix into the pan, get a plate out and maybe some cold meat left overs and set it on the table. I then flip over the golden delicious omelette and slide it onto the plate like a master chef at a four star hotel. Presto a full breakfast in under 10 minutes.

3 eggs at $2.50 a dozen 63 cents

2 mushrooms 13 cents

Half a tomato 18 cents

Total 94 cents 

So the total difference between these choices is 12 cents and 10 minutes.

Think it’s worth it? 

Sub wars part 2:Subway

So today was my second foray into the exciting world of cut throat culinary corporatism. A critical look at the second of three sub shop chains that dot the landscape like coffee shops of old.

Last week we looked at the classic Mr. Submarine, rebranded as the hip new Mr. Sub. While today we look at the fastest growth chain is submarine history, Subway.

I remember when subway launched. An aggressive corporate business plan to take over the market across North America. Two thousand shops by 2000. A new take on the classic, more toppings, more selection, not better then sliced bread, but a new way to slice bread, and a clever wallpaper decor of early transportation subways from turn of the century New York.

It was exciting, it was new, it was brilliant. I don’t remember if they hit their goal of two thousand by the time they intended, but they have surely surpassed it now. Subway shops are everywhere. Two are within a three minute walk from my office. Three if you walk fast. 

I remember my first experience, watching the sandwich craftsman deftly cut a wedge from the top of a long bun, stuffing my chosen meats and vegetables into the canoe shaped base, bathing it in a selection of sauces and capping it with that triangular wedge of bread. 

As time went on the novelty wore off, for both me, and the chain of stores. No longer a wedge, the standard horizantal cut was deemed enough, but the topping selection grew, the bread selection rose like yeast, and the variations stretched the definition of submarine sandwich to the breaking point. A flat bread wrapped around a farmers breakfast of eggs bacon ham sausage and cheese, isn’t really a sub. It’s breakfast on an eatable plate.

To keep the test fair I ordered the same cold cut sub as from Mr.Sub and the same toppings, even if there were questionable options for the more adventuresome, like spinach or avacado or Jalipino peppers, or fried eggs for all I know.

The selection of cold cuts is of lower standards, summer sausage, pepperoni and the inexpensive balongia that has limply hung over the edge of sad high school brown bag sandwiches since the era of two family income began.

The green pepper was crisp and cool, the tomato tart and sweet. The olives flavourful and the lettuce as wilted as that on a Big Mac too long under a heat lamp. Filling, well presented with less mess then the somewhat sloppy Mr.Sub that I consumed the week before. A feat in itself with my fondness for gobs of mayo on my sandwiches. I took my dinner to a reasonably clean table in the seating area where three other people were enjoying their own subs and one was mumbling to himself about not being his fault over and over. Down town London has a wide variety of characters. Enough to rival the topping selection of all the sub shops combined. Still this was four more people then I have seen gathered in a Mr.Sub this year. 

The sub was filling yet plain. Even with my dazzling assortment of toppings and the trifecta of meat products, it lacked umph, it was plain, boring and demure in its interaction with my taste buds. A lecture on algebra for the mouth. The fellow next to me was more flavourful in his ramblings then was my meal. Perhaps if it had been cut into a canoe first it would have been tastier. But as it was, it was just food. Good, but not good enough. 

Grilled cheese. The forgotten pleasure

how could I have let this happen? I’ve been writing this blog for over 2 months and have completely forgotten the staple of childhood lunches. The all so often first use of a stove we experience. The golden brown cheesy sandwich, the grill cheese.

How simple to butter bread on the wrong side, slide a slice of cheese between and drop into a frying pan for 45 seconds a side. How delightful the metamorphosis, how tasty the results of our labour.

Over the years I have experimented with cheeses, condiments and dips, but always the classic chedder and a side of catsup is a leader on the field of melted cheese Olympics. 

Personally I have developed a grilled cheese sandwich suited to my taste and kitchen staples.

A thin brushing of mayo, and when I say thin, I mean thin, so faint that even the inevitable cat hair that threatens my creations cannot find purchase in the minuscule coating of salad dressing. The ever present cheese, cheddar by choice, though I will slip a bit of Monterey Jack in if available. Then a sprinkle of mustard before placing the second slice of bread on top and introducing it to the searing pan.

Cooked to a golden brown and bisected with a dollop of red tomato catsup  in the void. We are ready once again to take joy in that same meal that we enjoyed the first time we didn’t burn the house down, or were horribly scarred by the dreaded stove we had been taught was a danger. 

I always questioned as a young child. if it’s such a danger to children, why the hell is it in my house? But then once I pulled a grilled cheese off its diabolical surface, I understood, the danger was worth the risk. 

Potato balls: From the myths of legend

Potato balls, a treat my wife makes for birthdays. Golden deep fried orbs of goodness snatched up and consumed by party goers at a speed that defies description. Of the 2 dozen or so she made, these three were the last by the time I got my camera out.


 Today’s example are quite simple. Ground beef and onion fried up and added to a mass of mashed potatoes seasoned with garlic salt. Rolled into balls and then dipped in a flour egg batter before being lowered into a pot of bubbling oil.

At other times she adds whatever is available. Bits of red or green pepper, a vast selection of spices can be used to flavour the potatoes. Cheese, spinach, pork, chicken, plantain, Pretty well anything you would serve mashed potatoes as a side dish can be  pounded into the mashed potato mix shaped into tasty spheres, battered and fried to a rich golden brown and served.

Of the guests this day about half had never had this creation before and they were ecstatic in their appreciation and delight. leaving me struggling like Hercules to reach the bowl and steal a few of these golden spheres of legendary renown.

Like the golden apples of Melanion used to distract Atalanta in Greek mythology, or the God rejuvenating golden apples of Idun in Norse legends. These golden spheres are destine for mythological immortality, that is, if they can stay on the plate long enough to memorialized.

The sub war, part 1: Mr Submarine

I’m a pretty old guy, so old that A&W still brought the food out to your car on a window tray. So old that the McDonald’s menu fit on one panel. So old that Mr.Submarine was the only sub shop in Canada.

 In those ancient times the submarine sandwich manufacturing monopoly was controlled by the red and white bannered sign of only a few shops around London. One downtown, another on the west side of downtown. There may have been a few more here and there, but those were the only two I ever saw in the 70s and 80s. You had a choice of a bun..that’s it, a bun. various cold cuts or hash made of eggs,tuna or chicken. Toppings were limited to tomato lettuce pickles and cheese. One cheese! And mayo mustard and sub sauce.

It was a simpler time with simple choices back then.

Until Subway arrived.

With its bounty of toppings and cool new way of cutting buns, and whole wheat buns. Subway Swept up the market and almost drove our beloved Canadian sub shop into obscurity.

As a result, Mr Submarine, maned up and rebuilt their subs from the ground up. Toppings? We got toppings, every topping you could want as long as you don’t want avocado,spinach or other un-sub like items.

Buns? We got buns, whole wheat, seeded, cheese (actually just the same old bun with cheese spilled on top).

Yes! Mr Submarine, wiped down the tables, scraped the years of accumulated grime out of the corners and became a whole new restaurant, fiercely fighting to win back its customer base from the foreign upstart.

As time went on, subway began to accumulate the grime, and was less enthusiastic with its bun carving, but still kept adding to the menu. And Mr.Submarine struggled to stay competitive.

Today like many days I have a taste for nostalgia and have strolled back into the eatery of youth.

I order a cold cut combo and dress it in the vegetable products of my choice and for $8 sit and enjoy my fare at a clean table in an empty eatery. The bun, a cheese encrusted white bun seems fresher then from other sub shops, the meat of higher grade with no sign of baloney in the stack. With only 30 minutes for dinner, I wolf down the meal, hesitating only slightly at the odd hot sauce like tang I did not request that seems to be hidden about halfway through. A toxic banana pepper spill that may not have been cleaned up after invading a less piquant bin.

An enjoyable if standard fare, but one I shall use as a base line as I grade the other sub chains in our community.