Aug 18, 2011

Rare Adjectives, Sliced and Pickled

"The fusilli is a picaresque delight, a bumptious fugue of octopus and bone marrow." --Andy Borowitz, in his "first and last restaurant review."

From whom we also have:

"The Long Island duck breast is a bumptious delight, a picaresque fugue of mulberries and mustard."

This restaurant review--and Andy, I can guarantee that it's not the last, my friend--caused me to think about how I, too, could use the words "picaresque" and "bumptious" to describe food. Not "fugue" because the word deeply depresses me--the sound, the spelling, everything. The way it slides and thuds, like a dead body falling down an elevator shaft.

What about "picaresque"? "Of or relating to a rogue or rascals." Mulberries and mustard does sound like a roguish combo, like something 10-year-old girls would make each other eat at a slumber party.

Let's look at "bumptious:" "Offensively self-assertive or conceited." Octopus and bone marrow? The combination sounds like an accident at sea, but is it bumptious? Or, after being cooked for a while, would it be "unctuous"?

By the way, I did find the phrase "bumptious homoerotic picaresque" in my Google search. Not sure where to go with that.

Anyhow, five pattypan squash in a row, on the kitchen counter, is picaresque AND bumptious. Picaresque because in my house squash is a mischievous vegetable that hardly anyone likes. I have to quash its bumptious personality.

Here is what I did, and it worked:

Pattypan Squash Pickle

Slice five or six pattypan squash thin with a mandoline. If you don't have one, get one! Dice a jalapeno and add. Sprinkle a tablespoon of salt over all, and give it a good squeeze every few minutes until not much water comes out, maybe 20 minutes later. Rinse and squeeze one final time. Add one teaspoon of rice wine vinegar and a drop or two of dark sesame oil.

Five little squashes, sliced, salted and civilized.

Aug 16, 2011

When Humorless People Edit Humor: A Local Case Study

Here is the title and introduction for an article that I wrote for a very local paper. Very. Local. So very local and folksy that it publishes several fake stories on April 1, so very local and folksy that after July 4, it is covered with photos of cute kids at the parade. Got it? Let's carry on.

I am on a committee at the Swarthmore Food Emporium (pseudonmym) and my main role is to write stuff. This article is publicizing a fundraiser so we can make healthy meals for people who need them, and the meals are made on Sunday nights.

Here is the BEFORE:

The Swarthmore Food Emporium Commits Senseless Acts of Kindness: More Accomplices Needed

by Lauren McKinney, Food Emporium Committee of Blah-Blah

One Sunday night in the spring, after the Food Emporium closed its doors to shoppers, some fresh food disappeared under suspicious circumstances. The scene of the crime looked like this: A local woman took some whole wheat off the shelf to boil on the emporium's stove. Soon thereafter, pasta with chicken and homemade sauce was seen leaving the premises. Meanwhile, fresh berries were cut, Caribbean black bean soup bubbled mysteriously on the stove, and another accomplice made a green salad. Officer Pardo of the Swarthmore Police Department was baffled.

And here is a quote from a committee member upon reading my draft:

"My biggest concern is actually the tag line and 'crime scene' theme.  While it was really cute and catchy, I did not like going anywhere near associating an outreach effort with something criminal."

She rewrote it and here is the AFTER:

The Swarthmore Food Emporium Is Taking It To the Street: More Support Is Needed
On a Sunday night this spring, after the Food Emporium closed its doors to shoppers, the store was anything but quiet. Food was collected from the emporium shelves, whole wheat pasta was doused with olive oil and homemade pesto, chicken was sautéed, fresh kale was chopped, local berries were cut, and Caribbean black bean soup bubbled on the stove.  In just over two hours, Food Emporium members Holly Norris and Kelly Shire [pseudonyms], together with eight volunteers, had prepared enough food to provide 4-5 meals for 10 people.  Why?  

I went along with it, because I know how to do committees. And I added their names to the byline. Inside, I'm thinking BLOG FODDER. I lament, and today seems to be a day for lamenting, the humorlessness that is floating out there in the world, dully, pointlessly, inexorably. A gray cloud of humorlessness dampening high spirits everywhere!! (Nothing against the color gray or clouds.) So what do you say? Grab your whimsy, put on your satire, attach your hyperbole and even your litote (if you can find one),and let's fight this thing together.

Honeysuckle: A Late Summer Lament

Innocent in June,
You now hold tomatoes in
A knowing death grip.