Bane of Existence: Select-a-size paper towels

Really? The select-a-size paper towels, designed with the goal of making it possibly to only use half of a paper towel when only half is needed… are they really the "bane of existence"? Yes. Yes they are. Here's the thing: I have over 30 years of muscle memory devoted to properly tearing paper towels. There's a certain flick of the wrist, a pull at the elbow, and a certain amount of force necessary to properly tear off a paper towel from the roll. And because it's muscle memory, I don't think about it. I walk up to the roll, grab the edge, and voila, a single paper towel is in my hands. The select-a-size towels are, as you would imagine, about half the width of a normal paper towel. This means that when you pull on the corner, the stresses that go into the tear are all wrong. All. Wrong. It's a shorter distance from corner to perforated edge, and the ratio of width to height is messed up, too. This means that chances are better than even that the paper towel is going to be torn in ways other than the perforated edge. And, because there is that perforated edge, one cannot pretend like the select-a-size is just a normal paper towel, because it'll start tearing at the first perforation, then tear in horrible ways. If you attempt to adapt to the strangeness, not only does it not quite work right for the select-a-size, but when you go back to normal paper towels in frustration, you'll find that normal paper towels don't work properly for a while, either. It's like a movie about the prom queen dating the class nerd and then trying to go back to the football star afterwards: it just doesn't quite work out like it should. The worst part is that the towels have the right goal: be environmentally friendly by encouraging people to reduce waste and blah blah blah. I appreciate environmental friendliness, I practice it in many ways, but this way is doomed. It's like a hybrid car, saving gas and poisoning the earth with its batteries. It's like the compact fluorescent light bulbs, saving energy and poisoning the earth with its mercury. Except without all the poison. Still, it's a bad compromise, and there are better ways. So, select-a-size paper towels should be avoided.

Robert Irvine, if that is your name

I believe we’ve touched briefly upon Dinner: Impossible on the podcast before. I quite enjoyed the first few episodes, with its reality-tv-like challenges, but presumably with a proven chef at the helm etc. As time went on, I ditched its Season Pass from the Tivo, because the challenges didn’t really become more interesting, and the more I saw of Robert, the less charismatic he became. The best part of the show was trying to figure out exactly what the producers said to the people who were Bob’s primary contact to get them to feel comfortable giving the man grief. “Okay, now ignore the fact that he’s got a neck bigger than your thigh, is 2 feet taller than you, and that he’s carrying a knife that could go through you and your closest friends if you were all standing one-in-front-of-the-other. He’s a pussycat; he really is. Besides, we have people standing by with Tasers, and he knows it, so it’s cool. So, what I need you to do right now is to say that the bread that he’s making right now is about as weak, and you’ll want to use these exact words, is about as weak as his mother was last night after she thanked you for the best time she’s had since the 60s. No, no, I swear, we do this all the time. It’s good natured ribbing, and we’re very quick with the tasers.” Something like that, I’d imagine. In any case, Robby’s going through a bit of trouble. According to the St. Petersburg Times (the one in Florida, not the one in Russia), Chef Bob has made a few things up about his past career. Cooking for Queens and Presidents? Not so much. I mean, kinda, if you squint, it looks a little like it, but not actually, you know, being the Chef in charge, as one might imagine. Being a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order would be really cool, if it were true. Not just any Knight, mind you, but the highest level of Knight. The Super-Knight, if you will. The St. Pete Times asked around and did some interviewing, and all of their comments are available in the links. For my part, I can’t be bothered to call people up about a controversy that’s months old, so I did the easy bit of research. The bit that even the Food Network could have done with no trouble, had they been of a mind. If you check his résumé, you’ll note that there’s a bit on there that says, “Recipient of the James Beard Award, 2005-2006.” It’s right at the top of the Awards and Honors section. So I went to the James Beard web site and did a search for Irvine. Irvine Beard Search.pngThere’s nothing. I check for Alton Brown, just to make sure the search works, and I see that he won an award for his first cookbook and was nominated for at least one more. You could check this yourself, but the James Beard folk just modified their web site , and now the award search is broken. It should be up soon, though. Well, I say soon, but it’s been down for weeks now, so maybe not. So, if I were a proper reporter, I’d call up the James Beard folks and ask if they had any idea what he meant. I mean, after all, it’s possible that he was working at some restaurant where he was executive chef, and the restaurant won the award, or something like that. Something where he may have won the award, but not had his name attached to it. I’ve done much the same. But on my resume, when it says that I won the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences award, it mentions the year and the name of the product that I worked on that won the award, which is conveniently listed in the list of projects section of the resume. That makes it easy to verify. However, I’m not a reporter, so it’s all gossip gossip gossip gossip gossip gossip gossip. In any case, The Food Network has decided to go with someone else for the next season of Dinner: Impossible, and they’ve pulled his bio from the site. Interestingly, there’s been a fan-backlash, with people saying they don’t care how much he lied, they like him on the show. They’ve even started an Internet Petition to bring him back, because, you know, internet petitions work. People will post to comments on articles about his lies and complain that people are being mean to him. And, yes, we are being mean to him, but that’s what he gets. Not necessarily what he gets for lying, though that’s part of it. That’s what he gets for being famous. There are upsides and downsides to fame, and one of the down sides is that people are going to examine what you have said. If something seems suspicious, they’ll pounce. And if it seems as if everything that you said in order to get your Big Break was a tissue of fibs, then people are not only going to find out and tell other people, they’re going to delight in doing so. That’s one of the reasons that Alton Brown is obsessively cautious about what he does by way of sponsorship. It’s why Anthony Bourdain can be a rude, fowl-mouthed, and generally unpleasant person, but not have the sorts of troubles that Irvine has: because he’s genuinely rude, fowl-mouthed, and unpleasant. You know what you’re going to get going in with Bourdain, and he certainly delivers. So the upside of it is that Iron Chef New Guy, Michael Simon, apparently has some time in his schedule between appearances on Iron Chef, so he’ll be taking over the helm. I’m not convinced that this is entirely proper behavior for an Iron Chef, but hey, it’s better than posing for cheesecake photos.

A terrible secret

Iced CreamsI feel kind of guilty writing this, but I fear that I must spread the word: chocolate chunks in ice cream is a bad idea. I know, I've just lost half of my readership, but bear with me. I'm not suggesting that chocolate is in any way bad, as chocolate is clearly one of the most important foodstuffs of the past however many years since it was discovered. I'm not saying that chocolate flavoring in ice cream is bad, either; though it's not one of my favorite flavors, it's a vital part of the ice cream pantheon. No, what I'm saying is, at the freezing temperature of ice cream, chocolate chunks have the flavor and consistency of candle wax. And not that fancy, scented candle wax either, no. The dollar-store, white, plain, boring, good-for-a-power-outage candle candle wax. Oh, sure, there's a hint of chocolate flavor once it's finally come to a decent temperature, but that's brief and unsatisfying compared with the candle nature of the stuff beforehand. It's a waste of chocolate, it's a waste of ice cream, and I really wish people would stop putting it into what would otherwise be a flavorful, nicely-textured dish. That is all, continue with your day.

Scare Tactics

Now, I'm all about the "eating better" thing. No, really. Okay, kinda. I mean, sure, it's a good thing to do, we all know that. And sometimes I eat better than others. All right, I admit it: I could seriously stand to lose a few....what's the pound equivalent of a decade? Decapounds? Anyways, a few of those. However, despite what Nutrition Action would have you believe, these are not the Ten Foods You Should Never Eat (Ever). Eating any of those items once is not going to kill you. Even the chicken pot pie which is more than a day's worth of fat won't send you into cardiac arrest unless you're close to it anyways. Heck, even eating each of those things once won't kill you, for pretty much the same reason that going on a diet for a month or two won't let you lose those twenty pounds forever. We're a regulating system, that learns to adapt (to a point) to our inputs and outputs. Any lasting change isn't going to come from a slice of low-carb cheesecake. It's when that Mint Chip Dazzler becomes a regular thing that you'll be edging towards an early death. However, short of choking, food allergies, and things that are actually poisonous, it's unlikely that you're going to kill yourself on a single package of anything edible you can get from the grocery store or a fast food restaurant.