Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


We were casting about for things to do in Cleveland last weekend. Sure, we had a wedding to attend Saturday afternoon and evening, but that still left plenty of time for getting into trouble with the Local Amusements.

I’ve already mentioned our visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. It’s a must-see for anyone with the slightest interest in the popular music of the second half of the twentieth century onward. We spent several hours there but could just as easily have spent most of a day.

Acting on the advice of longtime blog-buddy Erin O’Brien, we decided to take a spin by the West Side Market, one of Erin’s “fave haunts.” I’m not sure what I expected to find, but what I ended up with (aside from some easily transportable, nonperishable goodies and a whole buncha photographs) was a massive case of Food Envy.

West Side Market

The West Side Market - housed in a grand structure that dates back to 1916 - is one of those Urban Institutions that makes me think that despite Cleveland’s horrific climate, it might just be a fine place in which to live. It is nothing other than a gathering spot for over one hundred diverse Food-Merchants, a place where you can purchase pretty much everything edible. Comestibles of every description were there in abundance, and the vendors all seemed friendly and happy to talk about their wares.

There was a Cheese Aisle I could happily get lost in.

Say Cheese!
Say cheese! [Click to embiggen.]

There were meats and meat products galore. Beef, poultry, pork, lamb... I even saw a disassembled goat, complete with head, its eyes staring in seeming surprise at what had happened to it.

Acres of Steak
Acres of mouth-watering steak.

The fruits and vegetables were a greengrocer’s dream.

Fruit and Veggie Medley

I could imagine myself as a Clevelander, making my weekly foraging expedition to the Market, exchanging greetings and cracking jokes with my regular purveyors. It was a sweet, albeit fleeting, vision: I was merely a visitor, and one without access to kitchen facilities and refrigeration. I would have to content myself with merely looking at the gorgeous cornucopia that was spread out before me.

Thank Gawd I had my camera to hand. [What I cannot eat, I can at least look at.]


The Mistress of Sarcasm models a Panama hat.

You might look at this photograph of the Mistress of Sarcasm and conclude that she is a Chip off the Old Block. And, at least to some extent, you’d be right.

While her good looks come mostly from her mother’s DNA contribution, the Mistress’s demented sense of humor acerbic wit is inherited from me... or so I like to believe. We laugh at many of the same things and can reduce each other to breath-stopping hysteria with a well-timed twitch of an eyebrow. Yet a simple paragraph of her writing can make me weep with fatherly pride and the knowledge that I am held firmly in her heart.

Last month, I had the opportunity to go on a Road Trip with the Mistress. It may not have been a marathon journey to the far side of the world, but that’s not her style anyway. We were together - just the two of us - for long stretches, during which I kept her amused by reading huge swaths from the various works of Chelsea Handler or, alternately, Orson Scott Card. Not for one second was I bored.

I love this daughter of mine, truly I do, and it is hard to imagine a time when She Who Must Be Obeyed and I did not have her to love. As of the timestamp of this post, she has been walking the planet in our company for fully twenty-eight years... and I am looking forward eagerly to the next twenty-eight, to see what wonders she will see and create.

Happy birthday, O mistress!

Monday, June 28, 2010


We’re on the road, returning from our long weekend in Cleveland. It was a fine time, amply documented with photographs. I’ll try to slap a few up at earliest opportunity.

Being away from home meant missing the annual Sommelier Guild banquet. Somehow or other, I always manage to be out of town on the dates the Guild selects for its banquets; I don’t think I’ve ever attended one. But Denny has taken the time to write about it in my absence. The Grouch was also kind enough to put up a Cheese-Related Video to note my move to this shiny new Blog-Home: Monty Python’s classic Cheese Shop sketch. Be sure to stop by and check it out.

And since this site offers me a fine Fromage-y Pulpit, why not put up yet another Queso Video... in this case, the incomparable Lenny Henry rhapsodizing about cheesy contraband on the BBC comedy series “Chef!”

“Chef!” ran from 1993-96 - a total of twenty episodes, all of which are hysterically funny. Why some genius at the Food Network doesn’t think to revive it is beyond me... but meanwhile, since it’s available on DVD, I can track it down.

[Tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to El Capitan for the link.]

Friday, June 25, 2010


We just got back from spending several hours at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, within spittin’ distance of the shores of Lake Erie.

She Who Must Be Obeyed and I have done our share of music-related tourism in days past. We’ve visited the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. But country music does not speak to me deep in the recesses of my emotional core, so there is a “going through the motions” component to those experiences that is, perhaps, unavoidable.

This was different.

This was a museum filled with the memorabilia of the music that nurtured us through our developing years.

I’ll be the first to acknowledge that there’s something slightly ridiculous about elevating any aspect of Pop Culture to the level of Museum-Worthiness. And yet, when you consider the total cultural and economic impact of rock music and its various source materials and derivatives over the past sixty years or so, there is no denying its drawing power. Why wouldn’t you build a museum for it?

Now: What better way to celebrate our visit to the R&RHoF&M than to post the Cheese Aisle’s first Friday Random Ten? Why, to post a Friday Non-Random Ten, of course. Instead of firing up the Little White Choon-Box to see what’s playing, I’ll post songs by artists whose various relics we saw.

Here we go:
  1. A Day In The Life - The Beatles

    Seeing the grey, lapelless jackets the Fab Four wore in 1964 when they first came to America - and the very outfit John Lennon wore on the cover of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band - was impressive enough. But it was little things like Lennon’s old report cards that really got to me.

  2. Walk This Way - Aerosmith

    Steve Tyler’s original, handwritten lyrics reveal an astonishing level of orthographic ignorance. In other words, the boy can’t spell his way out of a paper bag (not that it really matters in the Rock and Roll Bidnis.) “Reminisce,” f’r instance, is rendered as “remoniss.”

  3. Hound Dog - Elvis Presley

    There’s plenty of Elvis stuff, from hotel bills to the flashy outfits he wore in his Fat Years. Here’s a bit of trivia: My friend Barry had an uncle who was a session drummer in Memphis... and who played on several of the early hits, including “Hound Dog.” A canny businessman (or so he thought at the time), he insisted on being paid in cash for his session work instead of getting a cut from the royalties. Big mistake, but who could blame him? Later, Elvis presented him with a Cadillac by way of a thank-you... but think of the money he could have made from just a tiny piece of “Hound Dog”!

  4. Sweet Virginia - The Rolling Stones

    Plenty of Rolling Stones detritus, including several of Mick Jagger’s outfits. (It’s strange how bizarre most Rock and Roll Clothing looks up close.)

  5. Ring of Fire - Johnny Cash

    Johnny Cash’s tour bus is parked out in front of the Museum, and visitors can walk through it. Beautifully appointed, it is equipped with cedar-lined closets and a special toilet designed to handle those occasional Mexican food-driven “Ringmeat of Fire” events.

  6. Thriller - Michael Jackson

    Our visit to the Museum coincided with the anniversary of Michael Jackson’s untimely death. Notable MJ relics include one of his white gloves, along with several of the outfits he wore in his various shows and music videos. Among them is the shredded red jacket he wore in the “Thriller” video, back when he was only pretending to be dead.

  7. Are You Experienced? - Jimi Hendrix

    There’s a treasure-trove of handwritten lyrics and original clothing from the master guitarist, as well as artifacts from other members of the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

  8. Dock of the Bay - Otis Redding

    Chunks of the chartered airplane in which Redding perished - and which bear his name - hang in the Museum.

  9. Bernadette - The Four Tops

    The original handwritten sheet music for this song is on display.

  10. Passion Play - Jethro Tull

    Hanging in a glass case was one of Ian Anderson’s flutes... and the patchwork suede vest he wore during Tull’s 1973 Passion Play tour. That meant that I had seen Anderson wear that very vest during a Jethro Tull concert at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. And who was with SWMBO and me at the Museum? Why, none other than our friend JoAnn, first cousin to bassist Glenn Cornick - one of the original Jethro Tull band members.

There was more. Lots, lots more. Bruce Springsteen’s handwritten notebooks, filled with early drafts of his songs. Eric Clapton’s Versace suits. Duane Allman’s guitar. A collection of Jerry Garcia’s guitars. Townes Van Zandt and Leonard Cohen setlists from their appearances on Austin City Limits (both of which made me think of Eric the Blade.)

It’s easily the most Museum Fun I’ve had since visiting the International Museum of Cartoon Art... a place that celebrates another aspect of Pop Culture that holds special appeal for me. I recommend the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum highly, if you’re ever anywhere close to Cleveland.

It’s Friday. What are you listening to?


The minister pounded the lectern, his face red from exertion and righteous fury.

“He is no hero, no hero at all. He is, rather, a fallen angel.

“This business of coming to Earth in a rocket ship? Don’t you believe it! He is Lucifer himself, expelled from Heaven for presuming to be greater than God Almighty!”

A chorus of amens and hallelujahs rose from the congregation. They had always feared the stranger in red and blue; now they hated him. Soon they would bend all efforts to destroy him.

The Lexington Lutherans shouted the invocation as one: Superman must die!

[Inspired by this classic post by Mark Hoback... and by our drive through Kentucky yesterday.]


I’m in the process of re-reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan’s 2006 social and anthropological treatise on the food we eat. It’s a timely book, given our peculiar national obsession - and cluelessness - about what to have for dinner.

Pollan points out that one of the underpinnings of the modern American corn- and soybean-driven agri-industrial food chain is the widespread availability of chemical fertilizers. Without chemical fertilizers, you cannot grow corn and soy with the exceptionally high yields that make them economically feasible. And without chemical fertilizers, this planet would not be able to support the sheer numbers it does.

The invention that made Earth’s current human population possible was the Haber-Bosch process: the catalytic manufacture of ammonia from hydrogen and atmospheric nitrogen. Fritz Haber received the 1918 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for this landmark development, prior to which the supply of fertilizer depended on the availability of naturally occurring fixed (i.e., combined with hydrogen) nitrogen.

Before Haber, if you wanted fertilizer, you had only a few options. You could fertilize the soil by planting legumes, the roots of which have nodules containing nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Legumes make their own fertilizer... and there’s enough left over to enable other crops to thrive. Or you could find a good source of shit. In ancient China, crops were traditionally fertilized with human excrement (“night soil”) collected specially for the purpose. And the rocky beaches and offshore islands of Chile and Peru, home to legions of seabirds, were a rich source of guano - bird-, bat-, or seal-shit - an excellent natural fertilizer.

Only trouble is, there was not enough shit or beans to support the growing population of Planet Earth back in the early twentieth century. Unless some way were found to enable massive improvements in agricultural productivity, things would start getting very unpleasant. Massive famines. Wars over dwindling food sources. An ugly picture loomed.

Enter the Haber-Bosch process. Suddenly you had an industrial process for making all the ammonia you wanted, ammonia you could use to produce fertilizers, chemicals, and explosives. All it took was hydrogen, air, and fuel - the latter to generate the high temperatures required by the process. Petroleum and/or natural gas thus became the new raw materials for fertilizer. For food.

Billions of people alive today owe their existence to Fritz Haber. Without his invention, there would not be enough food to sustain them. (You can excuse Chile for their lack of joy on Haber’s behalf - his invention sounded the death knell for their guano-based fertilizer industry.)

Ironically, a goodly portion of Haber’s prodigious scientific output was directed toward the development of chemical warfare, the new Destructive Technology of World War I. A German patriot, he created processes for manufacturing chlorine and other deadly gases, going so far as to personally supervise their use on the battlefield. His wife, opposed to his war-related work, committed suicide as a way of protesting his activities.

Haber’s eponymous Fritz Haber Institute was responsible for developing the cyanide-based poison gas Zyklon-B. Originally used as an insecticide and fumigant, Zyklon-B became a tool with which the Nazis exterminated millions of Jews.

Ironically, Haber was the son of Hasidic Jews. His support of the German war effort during WWI and his conversion to Christianity were not enough to keep him in good odor amongst the Nazis, and so he emigrated to England in 1933. His plans to move to Palestine the following year were never fulfilled: He died of heart failure in Switzerland, enroute to the Promised Land. And years later, as the Third Reich geared up for the Final Solution, many of Haber’s relatives would perish in the death camps... breathing the Zyklon-B gas that was Haber’s most sinister legacy.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


There’s a red moon rising
On the Cuyahoga River
Rolling into Cleveland to the lake

There’s a red moon rising
On the Cuyahoga River
Rolling into Cleveland to the lake

There’s an oil barge winding
Down the Cuyahoga River
Rolling into Cleveland to the lake

There’s an oil barge winding
Down the Cuyahoga River
Rolling into Cleveland to the lake

Cleveland, city of light, city of magic
Cleveland, city of light, you’re calling me
Cleveland, even now I can remember
’Cause the Cuyahoga River
Goes smokin’ through my dreams

Burn on, big river, burn on
Burn on, big river, burn on
Now the Lord can make you tumble
And the Lord can make you turn
And the Lord can make you overflow
But the Lord can’t make you burn

Burn on, big river, burn on
Burn on, big river, burn on

- Randy Newman, “Burn On”

This sarcasm-infused paean to Cleveland, from Randy Newman’s brilliant Sail Away album, was based on a Real-Life Incident: the infamous Cuyahoga River Fire that took place almost exactly 41 years ago.

Cleveland, formerly the capital of the decaying Rust Belt, is a very different place today. People still refer to “the Mistake on the Lake,” but it’s more in the manner of an affectionate sobriquet rather than the bitter epithet it was forty years ago. It’s now ranked among the most livable cities in the nation, thanks in part to investment in infrastructural improvements and in the arts community. There are plenty of fine restaurants, a handful of sports franchises, and cultural outlets galore. And the Flats!

The fact that it’s the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - and chef Michael Symon - doesn’t hurt a bit.

We’re here, along with our friends Gee and JoAnn, after a drive of “only” 12 hours 30 minutes, iron-woman driver SWMBO at the wheel every mile of the way. Our mission: to attend the lakeside wedding of JoAnn’s nephew Adam.

It’s a good bet that the lake - not to mention the Cuyahoga River - will not constitute a fire hazard. But, after a few very dry Martinis, I just might.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


When the Mistress of Sarcasm and I were in Washington, D.C. last month visiting Elder Daughter, we had a wonderful time wandering the aisles of Dean & DeLuca’s Georgetown outpost.

D&D, for those unfamiliar with the name, is an upscale Purveyor of Fine Comestibles - a fancy-pants delicatessen. Given that most of us do not live within easy travel distance of Zabar’s on New York’s upper west side, Dean & DeLuca is the next best thing. (Alas, most of us also do not live anywhere near a D&D - in my case, the closest one is in Charlotte, North Carolina, a five hour drive away. Thank Gawd for the Internet.)

When you want a nice slug of fresh malossol Beluga caviar, you’re likely to find it at D&D. When you develop a jones for smoked Scottish salmon, or white truffle-infused olive oil from Umbria, or caramels sprinkled with Maldon sea salt, D&D can bring teh happy... as long as you bring plenty of teh money.


They have exotic cheeses of every description. You want mouse milk cheese? They probably can supply it, though it be small.


They offer an array of fine charcuterie: meats and sausages of all descriptions, made from the flesh of all manner of beasts.


An astounding variety of olives awaits the discerning shopper.


And let us not forget the sweet stuff. Not shown in the photograph above is D&D’s famous Chocolate Babka, a cake with the density of dwarf star matter. Astounding.

Aside from being there to browse the plentifully stocked aisles and, in the process, develop a massive Food-Boner, I was there to pick up a few odds and ends to bring to the Slideluck Potshow, a multimedia slideshow and potluck supper event we were planning to attend later that evening.

I feel confident that the goodies I brought to that Arty Party, while not especially fancy, were on the upper end of the quality scale. No surprise, given that most of the food other people brought consisted of pretty basic home-cooked vittles... made, for the most part, by underpaid artists whose specialties were more in the line of the Visual Arts. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable evening that included some excellent photography.

Platanos MadurosThe real art showed up the following evening, after a massive feed at Elder Daughter’s place. Rather than eat out, we all joined together in a group cookathon that included platanos maduros (fried ripe plantains), moros y cristianos (black beans and rice), roasted salmon, and kale and avocado salad. Washed down with liberal lashings of wine, everything was delicious.

And then, out came the most beautiful chocolate bar I had ever seen...

Swiss Chocolart
Chocolart: a chocolate bar almost (but not quite) too pretty to eat. [Click to embiggen.]

My Gawd - what the hell was in that thing?  A cherry... a candied orange slice... sliced almonds, hazelnuts, and pistachios... cardamom seeds... sea salt (or was it crack cocaine?)... unbelievable!

I would have said it was too pretty to eat, but there apparently was a consensus that said otherwise.  The whole damn thing was devoured in minutes.

When Hippocrates said “Ars longa, vita brevis,”  he clearly was not talking about Edible Art.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Inquiring minds want to know.

“Say, Elisson,” they remark. “Now that you’re Lost in the Cheese Aisle, where the hell is the cheese?”

Glad you asked.

Owing to my recent weight loss regimen, cheese has been thin on the ground around here... at least as far as my own food intake is concerned. But I love cheese in all its variety, from the mellow curds of cottage cheese (perfect when doctored up with a dab of sour cream) to the stinkiest Camembert.

Whether it’s available in quantity...

Cheese at Costco
The cheese aisle at Costco... a great place in which to get lost. [Photo courtesy Morris William]

... or quality...

Cheese at Dean and DeLuca
A selection of exotic fromage at Dean & DeLuca, Georgetown.

I never get “board” with cheese.

Cheesy Delights.

But I can get Borat with cheese. From the outtakes of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, we have this hilarious exchange between the intrepid Kazakh reporter Borat Sagdiyev and a befuddled supermarket worker...

Borat: And what is this?
Store Clerk: That’s cheese.
Borat: And what of this?
Store Clerk: That’s cheese...
Borat: And this?
Store Clerk: That’s cheese...
Borat: And what is this? Rice?
Store Clerk: No, that’s cheese. This is all cheese here.
Borat: But this say “Crackers,” this not cheese.
Store Clerk: No, Crackers [Cracker Barrel] is the brand, that’s cheese...

OK, that’s enough for now. It’s time to cut the cheese...

Monday, June 21, 2010


Bernadette, people are searchin’ for
The kind of love that we possess.
Some go on searchin’ their whole life through
And never find the love I’ve found in you.

- The Four Tops, “Bernadette”

The Mistress of Sarcasm is happy to introduce the newest member of our collective household: Bernadette.

Rescue Me
Bernadette (L) and a buddy.

Bernadette is four years old, a rescue kitty who was brought here from Alabama when her shelter there was shut down. Based on what we’ve seen so far, she is quiet, yet affectionate - willing to allow herself to be picked up and not afraid to get up close and personal with the Bifurcated Gods.

Mistress and Bern
“Hey, toots - I think I like you!”

Welcome Home Bernadette
Getting to know you: Bern accepts the adoration of her new fan club.

May she have a long and happy life with the Mistress.

Update: Friday Ark #301 is up at the Modulator.

More cattery will be available Sunday evening when One Cats Nip hosts Carnival of the Cats #328. Stop by and tell ’em Elisson sent you.

Update 2: CotC #328 is up.


We’ve had a spate of scorching days here lately, often punctuated by the random late afternoon thunderstorm. It’s part of the joy of living in the South.

A few evenings ago, a group of the Usual Suspects had gone to dinner. Afterwards, those with heartier appetites grabbed a dish of frozen yogurt at the local Yogli-Mogli (no, I didn’t make that name up). As we sat and enjoyed our mutual company, I observed a bit of Atmospheric Drama to the northwest... the sun setting behind a rapidly-growing cumulonimbus cloud.

Thunderhead Evolution
The gathering storm: A cumulonimbus cloud evolves. Start on the top left, then go to the top right, bottom left, and bottom right. [Click to embiggen.]

Would this turn into a violent, hail- and wind-packed horrorshow? We had had several of those earlier in the week, including an especially nasty blow that struck Tuesday afternoon, knocking down a tree and sealing off Houston Steve’s neighborhood.

As it turned out, no. That huge cloud expanded until it seemed to cover half the sky, then mysteriously dissipated. Not a drop of rain... in our neighborhood, anyway.

But it was impressive while it lasted!



This is an actual, unretouched sign we saw in the neighborhood a couple of days ago. It makes you wonder. What were the parents of this poor girl thinking, all those years ago, when they were casting about for a name to bestow on their daughter?

Bad as this is, it could have been worse. Much worse. At least the groom’s name isn’t Lou. Or Pepe.

Sunday, June 20, 2010



These are the hands that raised me. They are my father’s hands.

As a child, I would watch those fingers fly over the valves of his trumpet as his foot would tap out the metronomic beat. He would then sit down at the grand piano and those same fingers would coax beautiful music from hidden strings.

The hands are older now, spotted with age.  But they still make that same beautiful music, and it makes my heart sing with sweet memories.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

Saturday, June 19, 2010


At dinner this evening, when the topic of music was broached, one of our companions averred that Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” was her all-time favorite song.

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this confession.

There is no denying Bo-Rhap’s popularity. Goofy as it is, it’s one of the U.K.’s all-time top selling singles, and it hasn’t done too bad here in the States, either. But I think of it more as a guilty pleasure, if pleasure it is.

Hmmm, I said to myself. What other song is really long, comprising a mishmash of tempos and styles, with completely ridiculous lyrics? Say, I know!

“Bohemian Rhapsody” is the “MacArthur Park” of glam metal!


Stuff that should be in the dictionary but isn’t.

Long-time readers of the Old Site may recall the Blog d’Elisson Dictionary, previous installments of which may be found in that site’s Archives.

As part of the process of moving to this new crib, I had to come up with a new name for my dictionary. Elisson’s Cheese-Dic? Ewwwww. So, for now, the Cheese Aisle Dictionary it is.

And now, for our first entry:

rest roomaki [rest-roo-ma-ki] (n) - (1) A turd wrapped in bacon. (2) By extension, anything possessing surface appeal that masks a completely nasty interior.

“Jerry’s girlfriend? She’s hot, all right, but a complete black-hearted bitch. A real rest roomaki, that one.”


With Father’s Day approaching, I thought it would be a good idea to consider the manifold blessings of Dadnis. Chief among them are my claim to fatherhood: my daughters.

My Girlz
My girls. Left: The Mistress of Sarcasm. Right: Elder Daughter.

With these two, I feel like I have hit the Fatherly Jackpot. Even if they were not my own children, I’d want to have them as friends and confidantes - possibly the highest compliment a parent can bestow upon a child. Of course, the powerful motherly talents of She Who Must Be Obeyed figure into their personalities as well.

One of the benefits of having adult children - aside from their (mostly) being off the Daddy-Payroll - is that you get to enjoy them as fully-realized people, people with their own interests, talents, aspirations, and desires. Some of those are the products of parental influence, but that influence diminishes as the years fly by, with its impact largely confined to the bedrock values by which one lives. I’m happy to report that our daughters have those values firmly in place, whether through my efforts, their mother’s fine example, or their own life experiences.

I’m glad to be a daddy... and I am especially to be glad to be the father of my own two girls. Girls? No, women. And still both the apple of their daddy’s eye.


I knew a man from Pago Pago
His favorite drum? It was the bago


Half-Sour Pickles
Homemade half-sour pickles. Crisp and garlicky, there is no better pickle on Gawd’s green earth.

When I was a young Snot-Nose, one of the great pleasures of dining in an authentic delicatessen - Wolfie Cohen’s Rascal House in North Miami Beach comes to mind - was the inevitable bowl of pickles that would appear on our table as soon as we were seated.

Sometimes you would have sauerkraut or pickled green tomatoes. Occasionally there would be a lusty chunk of red pepper. But always, the star of the Pickle Bowl would be the crisp, garlicky half-sour pickles.

A good deli restaurant - a real deli restaurant - will trot out a bowl of half-sours, maybe with a few garlic dills thrown in. I stopped going to Goldberg’s (an Atlanta-based chain operation) because they had jars of sweet hamburger pickle slices on the tables... proof positive that they Just Did Not Get It.

If the only pickles you’ve ever had are the kind that come from the pickle aisle in the supermarket, you’ve missed out on the Quintessential Pickle Experience... because the half-sour pickle, the pickle that bestrides the cucumber world like a colossus, will not be found there. If you are lucky, you will find them in your supermarket’s refrigerated section. Ba-Tampte makes a good example of the genre.

Of late, however, I have been disappointed in the half-sours that show up in our local Publix. Instead of that bright green color, a color that promises a crisp pickle with just the right half-sour flavor, the ones I’ve been seeing are washed-out and tired looking, a dull green that means they’ve been marinating in their briny bath so long, they’re now mostly sour. Not to mention flaccid.

Nobody likes a flaccid pickle.

My solution? I’ve started making my own half-sours. It’s easy!

I found several recipes simply by trolling the Interwebz. One was promising, and the resulting pickles had a fresh, garlic-packed snap - but were way too salty. So I have adapted it.

Half-Sour Pickles

Half-gallon jar or bowl
Pickling cucumbers, enough to fill the jar
¼ cup kosher or pickling salt
2 tbsp pickling spices
4-5 garlic cloves, sliced
6 cups water (approximately)

Wash the jar and the cucumbers thoroughly. (It’s not a bad idea to soak the cukes in a dilute water-vinegar solution for about an hour to kill any surface mold spores, but it’s not absolutely necessary.)

Dissolve the salt in the water. Make sure you use pickling salt or kosher salt - table salt will give your pickles an iodine pong. If your tap water is heavily chlorinated, I recommend boiling the salt water brine and then letting it cool to room temperature.

Put the garlic and pickling spice in the jar, then add the cucumbers. Now fill the jar with the brine. unless they’re packed in tightly, the cukes will want to float - weight them with a saucer or anything else that will fit in the mouth of your jar if you have to, but make sure they’re completely submerged. Cover the mouth of the jar (or the top of the bowl) with a dish towel or a few layers of paper towels and set it on your kitchen counter for three days. Little bubbles will begin forming in the liquid, a sign that your pickles are happily fermenting. After the three days are up, seal up the jar and stick it in the fridge. Now you can enjoy real half-sours.

If you prefer a more traditional dill pickle, try this version. It was touted as a recipe for half-sours, but the vinegar and dill say otherwise. Nevertheless, SWMBO has pronounced these to be among the best pickles she has ever tasted.

Garlic Dill Pickles

Half-gallon (64 oz) jar with lid
Pickling cucumbers, enough to fill the jar tightly
3 cups water
1 cup white vinegar
2 tbsp kosher salt
2 bay leaves
20 black peppercorns
2 or 3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 branch fresh dill

As in the first recipe, wash the jar and cucumbers thoroughly.

Boil the water, vinegar, and salt until the salt dissolves completely, then let the brine cool to room temperature. Place the bay leaves, garlic, dill and peppercorns in the bottom of your jar. Put the clean cucumbers in the jar; jam them in one at a time until they are nice and tight.

Now fill the jar with the cooled brine. Keep the jar loosely covered with a dish towel at room temperature for 24 hours.

After 24 hours remove the dish towel, put the cap on the jar and stick it in the fridge. The pickles will be ready to eat after 3 days. They will not be as bright green as the half-sours, but that’s OK - they will still be nice and crisp, with a fine garlic-dill flavor.

The pickle aisle will never have the same appeal once you’ve started making your own!

Friday, June 18, 2010


She Who Must Be Obeyed and I had a meeting with our financial adviser this morning to review our portfolio. I’m happy to report that our investments are performing well enough so that we will not need to move into a cardboard refrigerator box and subsist on a diet of cat food and potato peels for at least a year or two.

One of the topics we discussed, in the context of Resource Reallocation, was the economic impact of burgeoning middle classes in both China and India. Between the two countries, there are now something well north of a billion people with annual incomes over $6,000. That doesn’t sound like much to most Americans, but it’s a lot of money in countries that historically have had little in the way of a bourgeoisie. It’s enough to constitute disposable income. Money with which you can buy shit besides basic food and shelter.

It means that we are now competing with a growing number of Chinese and Indians for certain scarce resources... like petroleum. We can drive hyper-efficient hybrid engine cars until the (sacred) cows come home, but all that conservation will be like pissing in the wind next to the growth in Asian oil consumption. Not to say that we shouldn’t conserve: we should. But it won’t help much to lower energy prices.

Concurrent with all this, advances in human genome mapping and medicine will eventually drive the next big wave of technological advance - in the field of pharmaceuticals. Drugs that are tailored to fight specific genetic conditions or that are fine-tuned to an individual’s DNA will be the next big thing.

Now, couple the growing wealth and the rich cultural fabric of India with advances in the pharmaceutical industry, and you have an excellent vehicle for investment. I speak, of course, of Dr. Patel’s fine products...

Dr. Patel’s Nostrums
[Click to embiggen.]

Dr. Patel’s Lingam Lotion and Bangla Douche are available at finer Drug Emporia.  Try some today!

Thursday, June 17, 2010


...same as the old blog. Except for the title and the URL.

Oh, and the commenting system. For the time being, I’ll use Blogger comments here. Not the best, but waaaay better than Echo. (Note to Echo: Discarding useful features is bad enough, but replacing a perfectly good commenting system with one that is difficult to understand and a pain in the ass to use is fatally fuckin’ feckless.)

My last post over at Blog d’Elisson explained my rationale for jumping over to a shiny new crib... but you can legitimately ask “Why bother blogging in the first place?” After all, blogging is, well, passé. Everybody and his brother spends time on Twitter (“Blogging for People with ADHD”) or on Facebook. (Why hang out with friends when you can hang out with ffriends?)

My answer? Blogging is unique, the only medium in which you can create a self-selected social milieu of people with those talents and interests that appeal to you. The thread that ties you all together is nothing more - or less - than the things you write, and through reciprocal or concatenating linkage and comments, that thread is woven into a true fabric of communication.

I have yet to hear of friendships - of communities - arising from Twitter or any of its micro-blogging platform competitors... but blogging has brought us any number of them.

Plus, it’s fun. A creative outlet. Where else can I write poems about the benefits of a tapered stool; a thoughtful essay on Nasal Secretions; or post a recipe for Hungarian Goulash that is subsequently linked by the New York Times... on their International Affairs page?

Welcome to my world. Again.

Update: Apparently, I’m not the only one who’s moving.