Monday, July 26, 2010

things i cannot take on the plane

blueberry pie recipe that i modified

the original does not have whole wheat flour, sugar, cinnamon, or ginger, which is why i think this is essentially my own recipe at this point. original recipe used maple syrup, interestingly enough. besides the ingredient additions and modifications, i am also simplifying some of the directions.

blueberry pie

3 cups blueberries
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar

simmer for 20-30 mins or until thickened


1 cup blueberries
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp powdered ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt

stir until sugar is fully dissolved
thicken with 3tbsp flour or corn starch, adding gradually as needed

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup white flour
10 tbsp butter
1 tsp vinegar
5-7 tbsp water

combine dry ingredients; cut in butter
add vinegar and gradually add water

divide in half, roll out to make the top and bottom crusts

after assembling pie, cover the edges of the crust with foil - i did not do this initially and the middle was not satisfyingly done by the time they began to seriously brown, but a last-minute foil modification saved the day.

bake pie at 450 for 40 minutes or until middle crust is firm and filling (if visible) has the dulled glassy look of a nicely done pie

developmental notes:
additional butter can be dotted on top of filling before baking; i did not do this and was wholly satisfied with the result. the spice amounts are estimates, since i seasoned the pie to taste and would have to keep trying this to see how much ginger gives the best flavor. my pie had a delightful fruit flavor as expected with just a hint of the ginger's heat to add to the experience. i had to use less butter than required in the original recipe but found that i seemed to have about the right amount; throwing in a bit more (before adding water) obviously works if the mixture doesn't feel right. i sliced up my top crust to make a lattice, but the recipe yields plenty to do a full top crust if desired.

i was highly pleased with the results of my pie experiment. the whole wheat crust seems to go well with blueberry.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

this is where the roof hits me

i'm fond of lists. i think most people like lists. they're always useful as an organizing principle, and can easily be added to or modified to fit changing scenarios. lists have been making lives easier since at least a couple hundred years ago.

here are several things that are not out to get me:

the combination of pizza and root beer
bears (although the last bear i saw was just a baby, so it ran away)
stringed instruments
the summer
human beings
computer software
european mobile phone manufacturers

Friday, July 23, 2010

the divided and dividers

i went to the library today and took books. i did not leave the property with the books, but instead i borrowed them from shelves and gave them to other shelves. i built pyramids and defensive barracks from books. the covers lined tables and aisles. patrons walked by and stared over their contraband beverages as my creations rose and fell in the silence of the second floor. whispered mobile phone calls to colleagues and loved ones made no mention of the chaos, but there was little enough reason for them to be calling in the first place. staff members remained stoic in the face of my challenge to the order of things. great chasms of literacy were bridged with jumbled collections of fiction. catalog records soon meant nothing, as shelves emptied and floors filled with the brick wall constructions of the afternoon. windows to nowhere leaned in and out of the accumulated writings of a thousand forgotten souls. looming above, the voices of public announcement stood ready to warn me from my tower. i stomped the outlines of my kingdom and watched for signs in the settling sky.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

careful eating

we had an extended discussion this evening about which desserts would be the worst to have smashed in your face. cookies were basically the most harmless, especially soft cookies. once they have rebounded from your face, you can even try to catch them and eat one.

i made the argument that a bowl of raspberries in honey would be a terrible thing to have shoved in your face. unfortunately, this does not qualify as a dessert as people do not eat it for dessert. baklava, however, is both a legitimate dessert and one that is sticky, greasy, and flaky. there is no way that would be pleasant hanging from your face.

also interesting would be creme brulee, which might cause some minor lacerations. the subtleties of its flavor would perhaps be lost in the moment, reducing the possibility that the victim might enjoy the residue left from the dessert attack.

finally, a milkshake would provide a gigantic mess and likely lead to considerable physical discomfort due to its coldness, while also significantly messing up the victim's clothes. although further research is necessary to prove the relative merits of these desserts, it seems clear that all pose significant dangers and should be regarded with a degree of caution. don't keep your guard up too much around cookies, but it might be good to watch your back around these other sweet menaces.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

you make the rules

i had this conversation yesterday where i misheard a friend's response and thought that she was skeptical about an important idea of mine. it has occurred to me that, with the spread of things like soda flavored syrups, we now have the power to reverse engineer popular beverages. of course, my friend agreed that this was a good idea. perhaps owing to my own doubts, i didn't properly hear her enthusiasm for the concept.

it's important to understand what is at stake here. i'm not discussing actually figuring out the recipe for any given soda product, because that would obviously be counterproductive advice for an insider like myself to give. rather, it's a matter of getting exactly what you want.

i've always been annoyed at those places where soda fountains include squirters that let people add a dash of lemon or cherry syrup to their soda. if people want to doctor up a beverage, they should be doing it on their own. it's almost disingenuous for a store to offer you the chance to purchase a valued, respected brand of soft drink but simultaneously attempt to hook you with the promise of convenient ways to ruin that drink's flavor. let me tell you something: the folks who make all their money off of this stuff don't just randomly combine essential oils to create flavors. you're undoing inspired work when you mess with the product like that.

now, though, people do have a chance to take a more proactive role in the creation of a soft drink. go out and buy one of those pre-concentrated syrups, and maybe have a little on your ice cream. then, get some seltzer water or something and start mixing things together. if you're less adventurous, just buy the soda and the identical syrup. combine these to get the best taste possible. have fun, run a few experiments. maybe take a poll of your friends with your top three creations.

see the genius in this? it's great when a product's marketing team is able to produce something new - like a syrup for ice cream - that can also change and enhance the consumer experience with the original product. people don't have to throw away the expert-crafted formula for any soda to take an active role in re-engineering it as a final product. it's just a matter of having precision control over the experience, while maintaining the authentic experience you paid for when you made your purchase.

go have a soda, folks.

Monday, July 19, 2010

...but there is plenty of chocolate

is summer inherently a boring time of year? i leave that to others to debate, but i must confess i am swamped these days with tasks that i will or won't accomplish, plates i will or won't clean, bikes i will or won't take on a ride, and tiger videos i will or won't watch. it'll be a little while before i get bored, but i have to say that i'm slightly worried about how this might develop. will i find myself tied by the ears to a maple tree, struggling to drain a hydration pack full of honey while ants dance on my cassette collection? i don't know about you, but i doubt i'm getting the old auto-reverse deck one to play music that's been fouled by insects. at times i wonder if i've left myself too little space to stuff things in the refrigerator, since there are so many things that have to be prevented from ants, spiders, etc...

Friday, July 16, 2010

my cookie function is disabled

i recently purchased a package of cookies to eat while i was camping. unfortunately, i did not eat the cookies during my time sleeping in a tent. now, i have a package of cookies i purchased essentially because they looked fantastically awful and were made by a company with a ridiculous name. they're not exactly your average bad cookies either-they're chocolate chip sandwich cookies.

these wonders of generic product development combine mediocre chocolate chip cookies with mediocre sandwich cookies to produce something that is uniquely unpleasant to eat. i would argue that bad sandwich cookies, being something of a known phenomenon, are somewhat edible. bad chocolate chip cookies i'm not so sure about; it may be that i have simply never had chocolate chip cookies this tasteless.

the short-term solution to the cookie problem is to de-sandwich them. i have found it is much easier to eat something that is only one type of bad cookie than something that simultaneously hits two categories of disappointment. removing the filling from the sandwiches also creates a sort of visual mess which might distract from the taste of the remaining cookies. despite this minor improvement in the cookie consumption process, a larger and more permanent solution remains elusive.

it seems to me that i may need to start my own generic cookie business. the only real way to ensure that products that meet my highest standards of road-weary fatalism have a reasonably decent taste is to become the person who tastes the cookies before they go into the package. i can't imagine myself as a quality control taster or hired cookie chef, and so it's the ownership angle that i need to pursue.

with a little capital and some ambition, i think i can make a big impact in the discount cookie arena. the four keys to proper generic product development lie mainly in marketing. now, you may think this is counter-intuitive, because generic products are not advertised via television or bulk facsimile. however, that is precisely why good branding is crucial.

a good discount brand should be memorable, because the consumer will probably only engage with the brand at an actual store. first of all, imaginary and whimsical characters should be clearly associated with the product. they should be pictured on the package in a variety of primary and neon colors. the product name may ideally incorporate these characters, or they can merely be placed on the package to create an attention-getting incongruity. 'what do these graham crackers have to do with a purple giraffe,' people are saying to themselves - and that is when they've been gotten by the generic machine.

building off of the character idea, it is important to focus on packaging. often, the market leader in the field of, say, tortilla chips has determined a look and feel for the category that many will imitate. while this is not entirely a problem, the use of unusual colors (and characters!) will help ensure that your product is noticed.

once you have the consumer's attention, the biggest remaining elements lie in the food itself. concept and execution are key here. yes, it may be a great idea to make chocolate chip sandwich cookies. that purely ridiculous idea certainly got my attention. generics should be adventurous, their bare-bones corporate backers willing to take risks that larger companies would not, creating flavors and designs that seem obvious to anyone working without the encumbrance of a massive corporate decision-making process. don't just imitate, but you don't need to innovate. simply give people what seems obviously like a good idea.

oh, and last of all: try tasting the product before it hits stores.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


having no patience for the delicate microwaving process required to prepare the remains of the hot fudge that goes with a spanish sundae, i made the following, which made me a little happy for a brief period of time:

vanilla ice cream
chopped walnuts
broken up pretzels
hint of dried basil (though i'm sure fresh would be better)
chocolate syrup
whipped cream, with dash of nutmeg and small amt of sugar

there are just a few friendly surprises in that mixture, which are at least semi-likely to produce a smile.

Monday, July 12, 2010


what's the weather like in upstate new york? oh who knows, and why bother finding out. it's not like i'm going camping there tonight or anything.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

i (heart) stickies

i've always been a fan of not letting fear get in the way of spreading a good idea, so here goes:

i have recently decided that, as i own a large number of sticky notes and like to get excited about things for no reason, it would be useful to stick the notes on things, and write on the notes that i (heart) the things they're stuck to. this can then be documented photographically, and the notes can be reused and relabeled as long as they still stick to things.

it strikes me that this would be an incredibly fun office game, as a sticky note could be placed on virtually any object and blend in fairly well, being as natural to the office environment as a leaf is to a forest. right now, i (heart) boxes, and soon i may (heart) boxes and desks, as i arrived back in my room to find i had stuck the first note to my desk after removing the box to leave it for pickup.

that is all.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

while you were busy with the leftover pie

we are nearly out of control at my house, but due to extreme world cup circumstances it became necessary for me to make both german chocolate cake and spanish sundaes today. i'm sure many are familiar with german chocolate cake, but let me tell you briefly about a spanish sundae. the spanish sundae is very similar to an ice cream sundae you may have had, except that the whipped cream is flavored with almond extract and the hot fudge has cayenne pepper and cinnamon added to it. with the hint of cayenne, the entire product was far more delicious than most people can imagine.

i had to make my own fudge sauce by combining chocolate syrup, cocoa powder, and butter. the result was, i think, highly delicious and satisfying. also, i lacked the required almond extract and had to stir vanilla into the whipped cream like an ordinary sundae. i think it would be worth doing again with all the proper ingredients, but be warned that these sundaes are highly filling. i barely had room for cake, and today was a good day to completely forget about finishing that pie.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

the hidden dangers of bananas

i have had a few conversations recently about the coconut banana cream pie i made this weekend. it turns out that a cream pie with a meringue topping is delicious, and while whipped cream would of course have been a similarly attractive alternative, there is something to be said for what the meringue brings to the equation.

the problem, however, lies in the use of bananas in a pie that has to be baked in the oven. my recipe suggested i put the bananas on top of the bottom crust, then pour the hot pudding over them. the meringue goes on last, and the whole thing goes in the oven. as it turns out, this produces a slightly cooked, slightly strange quality in the bananas, which truly are better left out.
to make a proper banana cream pie, my sister informs me, one should cool the pudding, then pour it over the sliced bananas and top the entire thing with whipped cream and serve it immediately. she also recommends using a rich pastry crust with cream pies, with the goal of preventing the crust from becoming too soggy. i had done this anyway, and found that on the second day, the crust was fine.