Humor Writing Contest: Win a Copy of The Sweet Life in Paris

Apr 122011
 

Are you a funny food writer? Let’s see your stuff.

And if you’re not, maybe these funny writing samples below will inspire you. Here are several that have tickled me lately:

1. David Lebovitz has been been honing his offbeat, irreverent humor for years on his blog and in books. A sample from The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World’s Most Glorious — And Perplexing — City shows his puzzlement of Parisian hot chocolate:

“Many visitors get a lost, misty-eyed look when describing the ultrathick, steamy chocolate chaud that glops and blurts as it’s poured into dainty white cups…

Me? I can barely swallow the sludge.

You need to clam my mouth closed and massage my neck to get that hyperthick stuff down the hatch– like forcing a dog to swallow a pill. That throat-clogging liquid hits my tummy with a thud and refuses to budge for the rest of the day. I just don’t get its appeal.”

I’d call this example curmudgeonly, in an adorable way. I love the image of someone massaging his neck, and I recognize that “thud” in the belly.

2. Comedian George Carlin, always a crack-up, wrote these gems about restaurant food and waffle irons in Brain Droppings:

“There are certain clues that tell you how much a restaurant will cost. If the word cuisine appears in the advertising, it will be expensive. If they use the word food, it will be moderately priced. However, if the sign says eats, even though you’ll save some money on food, your medical bills may be quite high.”

“I don’t like trendy food. When I hear, ‘sauteed boneless panda groin,’ I know I’m in the wrong place. There’s such a thing as pretentious food. Puree of woodchuck, marinated bat nipples, weasel chops, porcupine cacciatore. Or fried eagle. A guy said to me recently, ‘C’mon, we’ll go to Baxter’s, they have really great fried eagle.’ I’m thinkin’ to myself, “Do I really want to know this guy?”

On waffle irons:

“Why on earth would you want to iron a waffle? Wouldn’t that just flatten out all the little squares? No, I believe waffles should be dry cleaned. Pancakes, of course, should always be ironed.”

I find this stuff laugh-out-loud hilarious, especially the menu names. I crack up every time I read them. I’d be the perfect audience member if Carlin was still around to perform.

3. Consider the Onion, a parody news source with news features such as Doritos Celebrates 1 Millionth Ingredient. In a story about the burgeoning locavore movement, the punsters list suggestions on how to eat locally, such as:

  • “Lucky Northfield, IL residents are in for a treat: They live practically next door to Kraft Foods headquarters, which means they can have all the Stove Top stuffing they want with no guilt.”
  • “Tie one end of a 100-mile rope to your house and the other end to your waist to ensure that you only eat within that radius.”

I love the silly, giddiness of this writing, while it deftly skewers politically-correct thinking.

4. Sometimes a book that looks serious can give you a good belly laugh. That happened to me while reading Becky Selengut’s Good Fish: Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the Pacific Coast. Here’s a headnote for a recipe for Mussels with Bacon and Israeli Couscous:

“Dear Grandma: I know when you see the ingredients in this dish, it might give you pause, as you raised me to be a good Jew, but I want to remind you that, above all else, you taught me to see the humor in life. Isn’t it funny how I combined bacon and Israeli couscous with shellfish? Love, Becky. P.S. I had originally called this recipe ‘Bad Jew Stew’ but my editor thought that wasn’t the best idea I’ve ever had, so it could’ve been worse.”

She has more like this. Selengut’s goofy, happy headnotes make a serious book on sustainable seafood fun.

And finally, don’t forget last week’s post about the James Beard Foundation’s new humor award. It has generated tons of media attention due to the nomination of Ruth Bourdain’s tweets. The post includes links to the two other humor essays in the competition.

So, after reviewing these examples, do you have something funny to say about food? Give me a maximum of 250 words of original writing. Paste in something funny from a prior piece of writing or try something new, as an exercise.

If none of these examples have tickled your writing funny bone, give me a few lines of your favorite humorous food writing, and we’ll all have a good laugh, at the very least. Make sure to name the author. If none of the original entries make me laugh, maybe I’ll choose your post as the best overall entry.

Deadline is Sunday, April 17. The winner gets a copy of Lebovitz’s new paperback.

Update: Sharon Grave’s winning post, profiled here.

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  44 Responses to “Humor Writing Contest: Win a Copy of The Sweet Life in Paris”

  1. I felt a little like I was channeling Bourdain when I wrote this. Probably not laugh-out-loud material but maybe worthy of a snarky, half grin?

    From a previous post entitled Changing the World One Bite at a Time:
    I would like to know who that first human being was who saw a washed-up calamari on a beach and decided to eat it. Was she shipwrecked and starved or simply torn between the squid and the horseshoe crab? Or which bipedal primate thought to himself “Hmmm, perhaps I’ll throw down some grubs for dinner this evening.” Exactly how many people had to die before rational man figured out that too much Hemlock or Hyacinth is not a good thing? And just how long did it take for hungry people everywhere to refrain from heedlessly munching on Daffodil bulbs or ingesting pretty plants with innocuous monikers like Holly and Ivy? Well, we may never know…

  2. OK, I’ll bite. This is from a post entitled Fast Homemade Croutons, where I explain you can make croutons from any bread:

    Our daily bread is the 100% whole-wheat loaf sold under the Arnold or Brownberry labels. It’s the same bread, same packaging but the company that makes it uses different labels in different regions of the country. Both labels are owned by Bimbo Bakeries USA, which is a division of Grupo Bimbo (headquartered in Mexico).

    The whole Arnold/Brownberry label thing is confusing. Why don’t they just call it Bimbo Bread?

    Well, maybe they have their reasons.

  3. Ruth Brown in Portland, OR:
    “You know what’s a delicious vegan topping? Vegetables.”

    A recent article I wrote:

    Brinner—where the two most loved meals of the day, breakfast and dinner, meet for one satisfying culinary affair. 2 AM at The Hotcake House needn’t be the only time you recognize this fine meal; you can certainly enjoy it at regular dinnertime, too (whether or not you want to include the drunk part is your choice).

    Thanks for acknowledging this aspect of food writing—all of my favorites know not to take life too seriously.

  4. Here is a little something I wrote that was fun. I want to win that book as my copy accidently jumped into my daughter’s suitcase the last time she was here, and it is definitely worth reading twice.

    I eschew the word “Foodie.” For some time now, I have heard the term used to loosely describe people who are interested in food. I’m interested in food, but I still don’t like the word. I don’t know if it is the diminutive nature of the word, or that it sometimes seems pretentious.

    For example, last Christmas my husband and I were at a dinner party where most of the guests were bragging about their culinary adventures. A gentleman in his seventies was discussing his best method for making cheesecake in a self-deprecating sort of way. While the cake looked beautiful, he claimed that it wasn’t quite right. Personally, I was impressed that he had made the cake at all.

    Then the hostess introduced us to her Foodie friend, a woman wearing a red and white Christmas vest with matching candy cane earrings. The Foodie enlightened the group about how she macerated the cherries in her pie, and felt like it was her best effort to date. I had the impression that she spent a lot of time making cherry pies. This would have been great if her cooking matched her claims. The pie was cloyingly sweet, and I didn’t know what to do with the rest of my serving. They didn’t have a dog.

  5. Great idea!

    First of all, the next time April 14th is on a Sunday is in 2013, so thanks for giving us ample time to answer you. And it gives me hope that 2012 is not the end. :P

    So here’s an excerpt I wrote on Eggplant back in the day:
    “Eggplant. It’s already weird on its own and then once you cook it, it becomes an amorphous blob on your plate. Eggplant is the cockroach of produce. But cockroaches don’t bite or sting or make annoying sounds. They really are the least harmful of pests, but they gets a bad rap because of its unattractive armor. Who are we to discriminate?”

    On men and football game days:
    I don’t know why they call it game day, singular, because it’s every Sunday and every Monday through the fall and winter seasons. And if they’re watching college football, add Saturday to the mix. And if they’re watching High School football, add Friday to the mix. Thanks, NFL, you’ve completely wrung my husband out of the puddle of attention he had to begin with.
    We’re well into football season for 2009. While I’ve lost my husband to his double duty affair with his new LCD TV to my left and his Fantasy football on his laptop on the right, I might as well feed him at some point between now and February.
    No need to make it tough on me. I should get to veg out in front of the TV too and monitor the performance of that Tight End if you know what i mean.”

    And if you read this far, you’ll enjoy reading this just post for fun (didn’t want to exceed the 250 word limit):

    http://rabbitfoodrocks.blogspot.com/2009/09/food-face.html

  6. I teach kids healthy cooking in NYC public schools and blog my experience on my website. I try to express my students’ humor and our interactions with the foods we uncover. Here’s an edited down older post:

    I try not to tell them until we get downstairs because no matter what it is, someone thinks it is “gross,” and will spend the next five minutes jumping up and down in front of me, pulling on my arm, trying to convince me we should make something else: “What? Brownies?! I hate brownies!”

    I prefer a communal onslaught instead of a single-focus attack. I prefer a tantrum in the confines of the kitchen, rather than the public hallway (which still requires getting them downstairs). Instead, I try to distract and drive the question into another direction: “What do you think we’re making?” or: “What should we make today?”

    “Nutella crepes…I already know how to make the Nutella, so you just have to show us how to make the crepes.”
    “Wait! You know how to make Nutella? How?
    “Well, you open the jar and eat it, that’s how you make it.”
    “I didn’t realize Nutella was so easy to make, but I guess we never have to make that since you already know how.”

    Once in the kitchen I explain what we are making: We are going to enjoy the last of this season’s tomatoes and peppers, making fresh salsa, roll up enchiladas and bake them in our salsa. We begin to roll our enchiladas…

    “Hey!”
    “What?”
    “This is how you make Nutella crepes! Now I know how!”
    “What do you mean?”
    “You take a tortilla and roll up the Nutella you’ve made.”

  7. Scene: kid watching TV in the sixties. Commercial for Duncan Hines comes on. Close up on a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. The fork cuts into the wedge of cake the size of Ohio. As it lifts up a bite that could choke a horse, the frosting clings to the cake until it gently releases, leaving a perfect tail of frosting. The fork pauses for a moment so you can really stare down that bite of cake. It was a perfect slice of cake. No mother would ever give you a slice of cake that large. The fork held a perfect bite with shiny chocolate frosting and a sunny yellow, bouncy, almost wet, yellow cake.
    I never got cake. Cake was reserved for once a year at birthdays. I wanted to reach through the TV screen and eat that cake. I have to choke back the drool that starts to accumulate just remembering that cake. I wanted that cake bad.
    I still want that slice of cake. Right now. Right in front of me. With a fork in my hand. And I don’t even like cake.

  8. There are so many wonderfully funny food writers. David Lebovitz never fails to make me laugh, but you’ve already mentioned him.

    Here’s a quote from Frank Bruni’s “Born Round” — great book if you haven’t read it:

    “I suppose there are people who can pass up free guacamole, but they’re either allergic to avocado or too joyless to live.”

  9. Visions of Sugarplums

    It was Christmastime and the tradition on my ex-husband’s side of the family was to show up. That wasn’t easy, considering that I had four small children to bath, primp, and make proper for the day. Not only that, but I had to bring a food item to share—something I could be proud of, but easy to whip together. The unspoken rule was that everything had to be home-made and there was one dreaded, self-appointed sister-in-law as judge. That was the year that I decided to make a cheesecake from scratch that didn’t have to be baked. It was perfect—it had this wonderful mousse-like consistency and a delicate hint of lemon.

    As expected, the women were all in the kitchen, nibbling, chatting, and putting the final touches on their creations, when the judge walks by, opens up the fridge, looks directly at me, and in a loud, sarcastic tone, asks, “Did you make your cheesecake from a box?” This may sound rude, but thinking back on it, that cheesecake would have made one terrific pie-in-the-face answer to her question—she would have definitely been impressed by the mousse-like consistency and the delicate hint of lemon.

  10. I like to be funny at 800 words — it’s a better arc for storytelling. :-) But here’s an excerpt from a past amuse-bouche column in the Napa Register:

    While poking around at her mother’s house, my friend Sue came across a yellowing 1981 issue of Food & Wine magazine that evokes its era even more than Linda Evans’ shoulder pads. (Note to my younger readers: if you don’t know who Linda Evans is and you’re too lazy to Google her, just close your eyes and picture an NFL linebacker with a lot of makeup and long blonde hair. Eighties fashion in a nutshell.)

    It’s not just that the magazine was somewhat dated, however. Even I, who steadfastly refuse to age, have evolved a bit since the ’80s, so I’d expect no less of a magazine.
    It was the featured subject that made Sue giggle and want to share the joke with me.

    The title of the lead story says it all: “Aspics: A Lesson in Elegance.” The inspirational cover image shows a towering creation that features shrimp balls and bits of black olive embedded in a pastel-colored tower of slippery-looking deliciousness, surrounded by deviled eggs topped by faux flowers made from radishes and olives, all nestled, for some reason, in a field of clover. It’s rather gorgeous, in a totally out-of-this-world (by which I mean, dropped onto our planet by aliens) kind of way.

    It made me feel completely inadequate. My dinner parties have never once been elegant enough to include a gelatin-based centerpiece.

  11. I’ll never know unless I try, right?

    Here’s an edited excerpt from an article I wrote about a San Diego Restaurant’s Happy Hour specials, titled “Hillcrest’s Tractor Room: Where the Buffalo Roam Then Get Eaten”:

    “Happy Hour connoisseurs will descend on The Tractor Room in Hillcrest like spotted hyenas between 5:00-6:00 p.m. for one circle-of-life reason: The Tractor Room hosts their monthly one-hour happy hour featuring $3 Buffalo Sliders.

    By raiding a friend’s car ashtray, car cup holders, and socks, those hoping to join the pack can gather enough change to bite into these young calves of The Tractor Room’s beast of a Buffalo Burger. Thankfully, the buns that bookend the pink-in-the-middle patty topped with cheese and crushed stewed tomatoes are soft so that the first bite doesn’t deconstruct the umami goodness.

    What is also fine about The Tractor Room’s monthly Buffalo Slider happy hour is that it runs in parallel with their daily drink and appetizer happy hour. Like Archie dating both Betty and Veronica, Buffalo Slider happy hour patrons are free to order a $3 appetizer to pair with their crop of buffalo sliders and to wash it all down with their choice or combination of a $3 beer, $4 wine, or $5 cocktail.

    In a time when many are pinching pennies, doubloons, and 50-cent pieces, the Tractor Room makes it easy to feast on the urban range.”

  12. From my post Glorious Grilled Zucchini (http://www.ageektrapped.com/inthekitchen/glorious-grilled-zucchini)”

    “We were at the mall the other day and I asked him what he’d want for lunch, ‘Hot dog or sushi?’…He picked sushi.”

    You could see it in his face, and hear it in his tone: he knew his kid was a super great kid because he chose sushi. He has taste and culture. He’s so refined. And he’s only four. I’m such a great parent.

    Please!

    Say what you want about the health of hot dogs, they are [effing] tasty. They’re built that way. The only way your kid could possibly not prefer hot dogs over sushi is you probably bought him tofu dogs, or some kind of veggie dog, which has the form of a hot dog but not the flavour of animal lips.

  13. Hi Dianne, what a fun contest! I am planning a trip to Paris this summer so the book would be magnifique! Here is a story excerpted from a post I wrote earlier this year on Welsh rarebit :

    I’ve got a hidden talent– the ability to understand foreign-accented English, perfected through years of international Thanksgiving potlucks. Alas, I do have an Achilles heel—the Scottish brogue. I learned of my weakness in a backpackers’ hostel years ago. It was an international cast of characters with different accents– the locals, speaking in Kiwi accents; the Lyonnaise woman who was in denial of her French accent; a young farming couple from Devon speaking in a West Country accent; and a Scot.
    I can’t think of a more interesting way to learn about other people and cultures than in sharing stories with fellow travellers. That is, if you can understand them. The Frenchwoman had just finished telling a very long story about being chased by goats (or was it ghosts?). The Scot then chimed in with a story of his own.
    “Do you like Rabbit Buns?” he asked.
    “Oh, I don’t eat rabbit. I am mostly vegetarian,” was my response.
    “No not rabbit. Rabbit Buns.”
    The rosy-cheeked English couple looked at me, smiling.
    The Scot started repeating himself over and over, getting increasingly agitated and red in the face. “You really don’t know about Rabbit Buns? Rabbit Buns. Rabbit Buns! Do you really not learn anything about literature in your American universities?”
    The Scot was about to Blow His Top.
    Finally, the English farmerwoman rescued me. ”Linda, he’s talking about Robert Burns. You know, the Scottish poet?” (At least I could understand her accent.)
    Well, why didn’t he just say so?

  14. From a post on Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread:

    I was out with friends of friends, and one of them was apparently interested in me.
    Guy: I heard about your blog, so you must be a good baker?
    Me: Umm, yeah, I like to bake…
    Guy: Well I know your mom must be a good baker!
    Me: ?
    Guy: She is because she made you!
    And then my mind exploded. Like WHAT???? Did that seriously just happen? Yes it did. Obviously I fled the scene immediately because really? He expected that to work??? Sigh.
    Though this young man was over-confident and uncreative and slightly creepy, he did have a point. My mama is a good baker! And one of her specialties is zucchini bread. And because my family is awesome, our zucchini bread tends to involve chocolate. This recipe can vary from healthier cinnamon-walnut zucchini bread to chocolate chip zucchini bread, to double chocolate zucchini bread. All are delicious! A slice of zucchini bread and a cup of coffee makes the perfect breakfast or afternoon snack.

    http://eatrunread.blogspot.com/2010/09/cake-of-week-chocolate-chip-zucchini.html

  15. Well, isn’t this fun! Here’s a *very* small part of a piece I wrote about my first experience at a winery in France. The full story is about 1,100 words, so this may seem a little out of context… but, here goes nothing!

    Standing agape with my back against a frigid, damp stone wall, I watched a strikingly beautiful French woman take a sip of premature wine, swish it around her mouth, and spit it on the ground. She did it with such incredible ease and grace that I was left both appalled and in awe. It was my turn next: I took a sip of the wine, swished it around my mouth, and, looking like a puffer fish, pursed my lips – ready to spit. Upon the realization that I would look more like a farmer and less like the supermodel who just sauntered off, I quickly changed my mind, choked down the wine, and coughed violently as the fermenting grapes burned my throat.

    This was my true first sip of wine. I’d been faking it for quite some time before this, allowing a glass here and there just to keep up appearances, drinking without breathing through my nose, chasing the drink with fruit juice. After I cleared my throat and received a smug look from the winemaker, I gave a nonchalant smile and followed him through to another room, dragging my dignity behind.

  16. From one of my very early posts – about the loss of one of our laying hens & titled “In memory of the unknown chook”.

    “Today we had to face one of the ugly truths of our idyllic, bucolic lifestyle – it’s a cold hard world out there and bad things happen to good chooks.
    Last night we put 6 hens to bed, but only 5 made it out this morning, to scratch another day. I can only guess that a fox was the culprit – we are left with no clue as to where the missing girl went, with not even a pile of feathers to mark her passing. If the remaining ladies were deeply traumatised by the terrifying events that occurred during the night they have managed to put a very brave face on things, carrying on their scratching, laying and pecking business as usual. However, I did notice that they put their heads down and solemnly observed a moments silence to mark the loss of their sister.

    She was a good layer.”

    http://www.lambsearsandhoney.com/2010/02/in-memory-of-the-unknown-chook/

  17. A selection from my most recent blog post: @BronxZoosCobra Cake

    …But of course, the post-capture tweet that really caught my eye read:

    @BronxZoosCobra A great cake recipe: 2 cups sugar, 4 eggs, 1 cup milk, 2 cups self-rising flour, 1 saw, 1 stick butter. And mix. Bring it by the zoo…

    Sparky and I couldn’t resist the challenge, which is not only a recipe from a native desert dweller…it fits the requirements for the food desert project.

    First of all, bronxzooscobra, Mia, Mrs. Justin Bieber, or whatever your name is these days – you need to read up on your Ruhlman. Your recipe as stated is extremely wet and eggy* – somewhere closer to souffle than cake. However, fair is fair – we decided to stick with the ingredients as written…except, since I wasn’t convinced of the food-desert availability of self-rising flour, we made our own using 2 cups of flour, 1 tablespoon of baking powder, and 1/2 tsp salt. (If your food desert or Egyptian desert happens to have self-rising flour, use the recipe as stated.)

  18. Le Cuisine du Hospital

    2 Weeks ago I was put into the hospital to undergo heart surgery for a congenital heart condition ( Bicuspid aortic valve stignosis and ascending aortic aneurism and a bypass ) After nearly 9 hours under the lamps in the OR I had more tubes coming out of my body than Chipmunks have nuts. With orders from the Doctors (I had 8) and my surgeon I was to eat nothing but what was on the Special no salt cardiac menu. Not having had anything to eat in nearly 3 days, one might say anything would taste good, not so….. That first bite was so bad I thought maybe the surgeon had accidently severed my taste buds from my brain.
    For 6 and a half days I was subjected to culinary torture. Waiting in my room 3 times a day to see how science had manipulated the food to new low flavor standards. I started to get desperate.
    I offered to buy my nephews half eaten in and out burger for 20 bucks he had left from his lunch.
    I begged nurses to bring me the one thing in the cardiac floor food pantry that had any salt, Rycrisp crackers
    Visitors taunted me to the edge of sanity buy bringing in outside food to consume as I choked down my lunch devoid of flavor.
    I dreamt of Mario, Gordon, Emerald, Wolfgang and yes even Rachael.
    Someone must have developed a machine that can suck even naturally occurring salt from food. I couldn’t believe how bland some of the food was. The motzah ball soup was a wet cracker ball floating in hot cloudy water to give it the look that chicken might have been in the broth at one time or another, maybe to wash its feet. If it wasn’t for my wife being there every minute of the visiting hour schedule, I’ve would have gone mad. She wiped my sweaty foodie brow assuring me there was still pizza on the outside.
    All in all I was not sentenced to a life of no salt. My cardiologist recommends no more than 3000 mg of sodium per day. Excess salt puts stress on the heart and arteries by increasing blood pressure than cause aneurisms, which can burst and put you under in 2 minutes. Ala John Ridder. So the moral of the story is all things in moderation, get a doggy bag and please try some fresh herbs.

    Chef Ken Kline

  19. Here’s an edited excerpt from a post I wrote about a little single-burger electric skillet with a lid like a waffle iron that I saw in a drug store:

    It’s the appliance you’ve been waiting for! No longer do you need your very own team of Nobel laureates to look over your shoulder, clipboards and sensitive instruments clutched nervously in hand! Even in multiples, these cost significantly less than the particle accelerator, gas chromatograph, and portable MRI you used to use to determine when the meat was cooked properly. It is thus that Science™, synergizing proactively with those geniuses down the hall in Marketing©, toils tirelessly to make your life a better place for them to be.

    Is this where we have arrived as a society? What’s next, special non-skid booties so you don’t accidentally slip and boil your face while attempting to cook corn on the cob? Microwaveable toast singles with a built-in layer of thermo-release butter pustules? A safety orange kitchen helmet with cup holders, reflectors, and a flashing light on top that beeps when you back up?

    Can you imagine the production meetings?

    “Our research shows that people are having a hard time cooking hamburgers without poking their eyes out–either accidentally, or in frustration at the difficulty of the process.”

    “So in one case, it’s a poke, but in the other, it’s really more of a desperate, agonized clawing?”

    “Right. And so we’ve created a special tool–like a skillet, but only useful for this one specialized task. It has a grease moat, so we can make health claims, and yet it’s so completely covered with Teflon that you can clean it just by yelling at it. Plus, those people in the burger-challenged demographic who happen to fall outside of the sullen, shut-in loner demographic will need to purchase multiple units in order to cook for the others in their household. Also, we’re pretty sure you can use this to make meth in prison.”

    “I love it! Now go wax my plane.”

    You can also read my fake script for a David Mamet cooking show here: http://www.acookblog.com/2011/01/the-spanish-recipe.html

    Thanks!

  20. This is an excerpt from my blog at Open Salon: http://open.salon.com/blog/hapamama/2010/06/03/potato_salad_that_bites_back_-_skc_open_call

    Everyone knows not to eat the potato salad at a picnic, right?

    Well, try telling that to my grandmother.

    When I was around ten years old, my paternal grandparents came to stay with my family for an entire summer. During the endless weekdays, Ah Ma and Ah Gong—who spoke little English — would grab the county bus map, and a stack of coins. My younger brother and I would join them to explore California suburbia by public transportation. The buses ran infrequently and made many stops, but we managed to make to various destinations, ranging from the local Kmart to Stanford University.

    In the afternoons, Ah Ma would take over the kitchen, giving my mother well-intentioned — but nevertheless unsolicited— advice like, “Butter makes everything taste better.” And that was just for the Chinese food. Round and good-natured, she was the Taiwanese answer to Paula Deen. Her other favorite ingredient was mayonnaise.

    On weekends, my dad would load up the entire family in car for more exciting locales: San Francisco, Seventeen-Mile Drive, and such. In preparation for one of those trips, Ah Ma spent the morning boiling potatoes, carrots, and eggs in a pot. The cooked ingredients were diced and mixed with generous amounts of mayonnaise. But she didn’t just pack it all in a Tupperware and throw it in a cooler.

    No, in front of my horrified eyes, she took a slice of Home Pride white bread, topped it with a heaping scoop of potato salad, and covered it with another slice of bread.

    “That’s not how you’re supposed to eat it!” I screamed.

    She insisted this was good. “Potato salad sandwich,” she said naturally, the way another grandmother might offer peanut butter and jelly.

    Grace writes about Asian fusion food and family at http://hapamama.com

  21. Oh this is terrifying, but here goes:

    From a recent blog post…

    I don’t think that people think enough about muffins. The poor things are having an identity crisis.
    Let me explain.
    What is a muffin? It is not cake. It is not dessert. It is something breakfasty and sort of healthy-ish right? I don’t think that anything I see slumped over and leaning into the scones at a coffee shop counts. I also think that if it is 600 calories, has more chocolate than the Guittard factory, or is bigger than my head…it doesn’t count as a muffin.
    There is nothing wrong with calories, head-sized confections, or….for heaven’s sake, chocolate, but in that case what you REALLY want is CAKE. So eat cake. Don’t make your poor muffin pervert itself unnaturally into cakedom. Let a muffin be a muffin.

  22. I once chanced upon this lovely piece of prose which was credited to a Gregory Lam:

    “Is this a burger which I see before me,
    The soft bun in my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
    I eat thee not, and yet I want thee still.
    Art thou not, gourmet’s vision, sensible
    To taste as to sight? or art thou but
    A burger of the mind, a false dinner,
    Proceeding from the meat-oppressed stomach?
    I see thee yet, in form as palatable
    As this cracker which now I chew.
    Thou nourish’st me on the way that I was going,
    And such condiments I was to use!
    Mine mouth are made the fools o’ the other senses,
    The calories worth all the rest; I see thee still,
    And on thy plate and Happy Meals of fat,
    Which was not so before. There’s no such food:
    It is the bloody diet which informs
    Thus to mine eyes. Now o’er the Weight Watchers
    Tastebuds seem dead, and raw salads abuse
    The growling bowels; famished celebrate
    Jenny Craig’s offerings, and wither’d hunger,
    Alarum’d by his sentinel, the bathroom scale,
    Laughs as it watches, thus with his mocking numbers.
    With Hamburglar’s ravishing strides, towards his goal
    I move like a ghost. Thou warm and delicious beef,
    Hear not my teeth, which way they chew, for fear
    My very swallows prate of my gluttony,
    And take the present mirror from the room,
    When now suits do not fit. Whiles I starve, he lives:
    Buffets to the heat of charbroiled chicken gives…”

  23. Hello! Here’s an excerpt from a blog I wrote just after Christmas this year – full article (which clarifies the “stupid, dead tree” throwaway and also includes the awesome word insouciant !) available here: http://etcetcblog.com/?p=1729

    “….Yep. It’s over, folks. It’s time to let go of any illusions about the continuance of holiday cheer. I’m back to work, the order of my house must soon be restored, and it’s time to refill my fridge, which currently boasts a bounty of empty pickle jars and two-week-leftover brownies.

    Thankfully, that last item is now a little easier, because – no applause, please! – I now know what’s for dinner tonight.

    So, if you, like me, need an item to cross of your depressing post-holiday to-do list besides “CLEAN UP STUPID, DEAD TREE,” here’s a freebie: dinner? Done.

    My Google Talk status has read “I’m probably 90% clementine orange right now” intermittently for about two weeks now. I’m also 90% certain that the FDA has injected these cute baby oranges with trace amounts of cocaine, hoping to boost its farm-to-table initiative, knowing that the American people can’t resist anything miniaturized (see also: tea cup poodles, elves, Rhode Island).

    And their diabolical plan is working; my defenses are weak and orange-pigmented.

    So, having recently come across this Bon Appétit recipe which prominently features both clementine salsa (best two-word phrase ever?) and a clementine reduction, my crack-addled fingers immediately navigated to the reviews, then shakily added the ingredients to my grocery list. It’s fresh, it’s healthy, it features both basil AND cilantro, and – bonus! – you get to say “paillards” over and over in your best French accent all afternoon until your husband gets home and calls you crazy.”

    My favorite part to write was definitely “…knowing that the American people can’t resist anything miniaturized (see also: tea cup poodles, elves, Rhode Island). ” :)

  24. I’ve been around food all my life- My grandmother prided herself on being a french style home cook and my other grandmother could bake the pants off a baker. My mother claims that she’s never made a mistake in the kitchen and I believe her! My dad on the other hand is a unique cook who believes that his ideas are genius. Take for example his thoughts on eating economically which has lead to his eating 13 turkey drumsticks in one month ( they are only $3 a piece!). He also has an interesting cooking technique which involves tossing them in some spices, throwing them in the oven, having a long nap and then taking them out when they are just about burnt- Claims they are THE BEST! This cooking experiment pales in comparison to the time he invited guests over to our summer home and then accidentally dressed their salad with shampoo which he stored in a jar which looked like the jar used for storing olive oil. To this day the guests have no idea but one guest did run to the bathroom after the salad course.

    I love my dad for this kind of comedy relief. I have a photo of him with the now famous drumsticks which is worth seeing and which I’m happy to email. Thanks

    • Would love to see a picture of the drumstick dad. Your story reminds me of the time I omited sugar in a chocolate suffle than was made with bitter cocoa when I was 12. the family chowed down with smiles on there face intill I took a bite. ” this is awful” I said then everybody all at once jumped up and ran for the sink or toilet.

  25. Food trucks and politics

    Everyone who loves food and lives in So Cal. knows of the Gourmet food truck craze. I was driving by a park where a farmers market was in full swing and several food trucks where selling there wears. But one caught my eye it was called Che’s BBQ with a large well know stencil of Che Guevara on the side. You know the same likeness that graced T-Shirts, Hand Bags and Bummer Stickers of the fashion elite. You have got to be kidding me. A food truck with the name and likeness of one of the worlds most murderous communists on the side. Its like we were all invited to the Guevara’s backyard for a family BBQ Hoe Down, all is forgiven. What do they serve Barbequed dissident?
    I just don’t get the connection. What’s next Stalin’s Borscht wagon. Moa’s Noodle Bus.

  26. My first attempt to get my writing out there! I write, generally, about an expat’s adventures in foreign climbs (Greece in my case). These include: observed cultural differences and yes, include the food aspect as well:

    My first Easter in Greece, 2009. As an expat working here, I had kinda got used to the local cuisine, or so I thought!
    Traditionally, Greek people fast for 40 days before Easter Sunday (no meat, bloodless fish and LOTS of salad) and then, on the Easter Saturday they introduce their stomachs back into meat, before going crazy with a whole lamb on a spit on the Sunday.
    So here I am – Saturday night, invited to my boss’s house for some ‘Magiritsa’. Me, being the ignoramus that I was back then got excited at the prospect of some sort of new pizza.
    Ha! When the entrails of lamb came floating towards me in a bowl, together with lettuce, I had to cover up my gag reflexes with a big smile (heck, it’s my boss – I can’t offend her!)
    Actually, Magiritsa isn’t that bad – it’s probably best, though, to remain ignorant to its ingredients.

  27. I wrote this about a year ago for everyone who owns more cookbooks than socks!

    A few days ago, my husband and I got into a conversation about my cookbooks. I don’t remember what started it, although in hindsight, I should have paid closer attention. That way the next time we head into those dangerous waters, I can quickly change the subject with some catchy line like, “Hey, how about those Texas Rangers! Man they whooped the Rays the other night.” Or something. Anything.

    Somehow, my husband comes up with the notion that I have like fifty cookbooks. I immediately scoff, “Pleeease. I do NOT have anywhere close to fifty cookbooks.”

    My husband assures me that, yes, I do in fact have AT LEAST fifty cookbooks. What do I do? Do I just shut up and let the conversation drop?

    Oh no. That would be way too easy! I get up and decide I’m going to count them to prove him wrong. Why of why did I ever think THAT might be a good idea?!

    “1, 2, 3…” About the time I hit 45 and I still had a quarter of a shelf left to go I had to finally admit, “Okay, I have like 50ish,” as my voice trails to oblivion.

    My husband just snorted, “ish. That’s funny.”

    Now that I’ve gone and made an obvious point of how many cookbooks I own, I can surely count on not getting the new David Lebovitz cookbook for my birthday. Sigh…”

  28. While I do believe David L. is hilarious and extremely talented, my all time favorite funny food guy is Calvin Trillin. He’s the king!

    • I so agree with you. We are all huge Calvin Trillin fans in my house!

      I do have to say to Dianne, though, that I love the George Carlin quotes you found!

  29. One of my all-time favorite posts is from fellow food blogger Lentil Breakdown:

    “I am a Shameless Hussy” at http://lentilbreakdown.blogspot.com/2009/01/i-am-shameless-hussy.html . . .
    [Intro} I’m cheating with a married man. Well, he’s cheating with me, rather. We share an office, writing advertising for a prestigious company, and most days, we end up eating lunch at our desks. He brings meat and potatoes. I bring salads and grains. Lately he’s been grumbling about how he wishes his wife would make more vegetables. When I asked why he doesn’t just tell her, he said he has to tread lightly on the subject. That’s her turf. So I came up with different ways he could broach the subject, like “Hey, I’ve been craving kale” or “Gee, I could really go for some flavonoids or beta carotene tonight!” He just shook his head and muttered something inaudible under his breath. That’s when my hussydom began. . . .

    Adair is one of the wittiest writers I know and deserves some accolades. If you pick this as a winner, please give her the honors.

    Other great posts on Lentil Breakdown:
    -Six Freezing Degrees of Al & Tipper’s Separation
    -Let the Games Begin (about being super tasting abilities)
    -An Overthinker’s Guide to Saving the Planet
    -Naughty Holiday Biscotti (with Cleavage)

  30. Most of my favorite funny posts are about my dog…here’s an original recipe posted on the occasion of his 3rd birthday.

    Peanut Butter Bonanza Bowser Birthday Extravaganza
    An original recipe by my daughter

    4 Trader Joe’s Natural Dog Treats, Peanut Butter Flavor
    1/4 jar of peanut butter of your choice
    1 birthday candle

    Slather 1/2 of peanut butter between 2 treats to form sloppy, sticky sandwich. Set on counter without a plate, then turn around and touch a lot of other things in the kitchen. Repeat with other treats and remaining clean kitchen surfaces. Reach into cupboard without washing hands and get out a dinner plate. Arrange cookies precariously on the plate, add candle. Sing loudly to the bewildered but salivating dog, while camera flashes in his face. Remove candle before serving. Wipe hands on dog. Leave peanut butter covered knife somewhere in the sofa.

  31. The following was intended for a post about homemade fruitcake… inspired by a cooking class with David Leibovitz!

    He had seriously underestimated how much food was necessary to feed two dozen relatives, including picky toddlers and vegetarian college students. While some of the aunties scrambled to the nearest grocery store for frozen lasagna and bagged salad, Uncle was not fazed. He offered fruitcake. Starving cousins rushed to the kitchen as the vacuum seal was broken on the tin.

    “Don’t worry,” he reassured the masses. “I’ve got plenty.”

    He returned from the pantry carrying an armful of metal tins, some still wrapped in cardboard shipping boxes.

    “Where did you get all these fruitcakes?” someone asked, mouth sticky with maraschino cherries.

    He explained how a certain relative sent a fruitcake every Christmas. “But no one ever eats them, so they just sit in the cabinet!”

  32. As someone who majored in English, 250 words was a challenge; I’m usually the 1500-word-then-hack-it-down-to-manageable type girl. But this was a good exercise. I have been thinking about the new Denny’s ad – the Baconalia one? – and put this together. Please to enjoy…. :)
    ——
    Denny’s is celebrating “Baconalia.”
    Um, what???????????
    I’m the first to admit that I have a Fatal Attraction-esque obsession with bacon. And you know I love good puns. Or bad puns. But this “Baconalia” disturbs me more than what might happen if you google “lemon party” (please don’t).
    It’s not the Bacon Flapjacks or the BBBLT Sandwich (I looked on the website; “research” sounds better than “morbid curiosity”). It’s not the Maple Bacon Sundae (to be honest, that’s the best sounding item on the menu). It’s not even that the name of the menu is based on a Greek worship festival that today is known more as a drunken revelry à la Animal House… kind of appropriate when I think of the times I thought Denny’s was the best choice ever.
    I guess I’m disturbed because I find it, oh…. inconceivable that Denny’s should think its menu the zenith of new and exciting bacon innovation and then present is as such. Three kinds of bacon with eggs is hardly something that merits a rise to cult-like worship; it’s just extra bacon, people – you used to have to pay $1.50 for it. I mean, if it were, you know, bacon that had come from the belly of a mulehock pig and then cured with an umami-laden rub smoked using wood from a Nubian Dragon tree, that would be one thing. But, um, it’s not.
    Denny’s, please please please stop. That is all.
    —-
    If you like this, you may like my blog, too – http://decadentphilistines.blogspot.com

  33. ‘afternoon everybody!

    So, I’ve never commented here before, but I am an avid reader! Thanks, Diane, for all that you do! : )

    Anyway, here’s an excerpt from a piece I wrote on some the differences between Chinese and Western food culture for an English-language magazine in Beijing. (I was living in Inner Mongolia at the time.)

    “Lesson number one: China does not have a food pyramid. The first time we were served potato noodles with bowls of rice on the side, my culinary sensibilities went into starch overload. After 23 years of eating meals with at least a nod to a carb-protein balance, I found myself adjusting my ideas of what foods belonged together. Adjustments which, I soon discovered, had not gone far enough.

    My Chinese friends were excited by my enthusiasm for trying new foods, and thus took pleasure in ordering on my behalf. Not that I was complaining, as I couldn’t read the menus, but lunch one day with my friend Jackie (whose Chinese name she’s never told me) sparked a conversation about culinary preconceptions. As we sat in Xiao PangPang’s, my favorite local restaurant, she ordered chaobing (fried strips of dough with pork and vegetables) and basinaipi (essentially, donuts).

    When the waiter brought our meal, I laughed. I couldn’t help it – pork and donuts were not what I was expecting when I set out for new and exciting culinary horizons. Jackie looked at me quizzically, which I’ve grown accustomed to as her mad foreign friend, and asked what was funny. As I explained about donuts and dessert, in general, I realized I’d just arrived at lesson number two: The sweet after savory rule, immutable though it may be in the west, holds no sway at Chinese tables.”

  34. Thoroughly enjoyed reading all your posts. Clearly, I’m out matched but becasue David is among the golden Gods of pastry… and becasue a reader insists…
    For me some of the funniest pieces involve the man in my life, a professional chef, who’s a total hard ass in his professional life; who I love to write as the “bad” cop (and he thinks it’s hilarious). From this past weekend, a piece called “Ikea, Home of the 50 Cent Hot Dog”.

    The weekend arrives and Mr. Patience – who has an extraordinarily low tolerance for waiting in line, full parking lots and incompetent people – suggests a trip to Ikea. One must assume he has a need to self-punish.

    Without a strategy this is a day that could disintegrate into temper tantrums, chain smoking and torrents of French cursing. Which is why, in the magic land of build-it-yourself furnisher — there’s hot dogs.

    Like the finish line after a marathon race, those 50 cent Ikea hot dogs loom like a blue ribbon. Clever people the Swedish.

    Unlike other items at Ikea, Ikea Food comes pre-assembled, no allen key required. I ask you, where else can you get a 50 cent hot dog?

    If a meltdown was imminent my instructions were to go immediately for hot dogs and run back yelling — “START THE CAR! START THE CAR!”

    All beef wieners, steamed to perfection, on soft, white buns, served in a delicate paper wrapper with your choice of ketchup, mustard and relish – only 195 calories. (Don’t worry your pretty little head about how many of those calories come from fat, you just walked through that HUGE store. Fine, if you really must know Ikea has very thoughtfully posted the nutritional value of all of its food.)

    After one, final line-up, we enjoyed a little “Scandinavian Tailgate Party” in the Ikea parking lot. “This is how the Vikings watched football!” declares Mr. Patience, exuberant with his purchases – and his hot dog(s).

    Romance.

  35. In a blog post about a “tomato martini” made with tomato water I had fun with the tomato as vegetable vs fruit quandary.

    “Tomatoes are not in this predicament alone. Seems that eggplants, cucumbers and all kinds of squashes, from zucchinis to pumpkins, are botanical fruits. It’s scary to think that there are certain fringes of our society that don’t know that some of their vegetables are actually fruits. If they knew, would they treat them with the same equality and respect as before?

    Had enough? I’m not through. Our little tomato suffered the same fate as the 2000 presidential election. Yep! The Supreme Court stepped in to settle the great tomato controversy of 1883 by declaring the tomato a vegetable. Once again, this conclusion was based on which meal course hosted the tomato. (Nix v. Hedden (149 U.S. 304)) However, and I quote, “The holding of the case applies only to the interpretation of the Tariff Act of March 3, 1883, and the court did not purport to reclassify the tomato for botanical or other purpose.” And you think current politics are screwy!

    How about one more tomato zinger? The tomato was declared the state vegetable of New Jersey. Hardly earth-shattering news, but the politicians of Arkansas, in their inimitable mountain way, declared the “South Arkansas Vine Ripe Pink Tomato” to be both the state fruit and the state vegetable in the same law, falling back on both its culinary and botanical classifications. Now we have a South Arkansas Vine Ripe Pink Tomato with a “bi” label. Really, a tomato that swings both ways and goes with anything? Just where are the tomato family values when you need them?”

  36. This is my take on the classic pain-in-the-arse, traditional French wedding cake, Le Croquembouche:

    This was not an enjoyable class. “It’s gonna be fun, guys!” chirps a delusional Chef Gert. Sure, if you count caramel stab wounds and 3rd degree sugar-burns as “fun”. But behind the trauma lies an important lesson: in addition to building character and a new layer of skin, Croquembouche an impressive but demanding dessert all pastry chefs should have in their repertoire, preparing them for the long, intensive hours in store whenever someone exclaims “Oh yes! We would lurve a Croquembouche on our wedding day!”

  37. I have a Chef freind who hated to be invited to pot lucks because She belived 14 hours + 6 days a weeks was enogh cooking for even the most passionate Chefs. So she created Winnie Flo-Tay Lime Jell-o mold with Vennia Sausage floating inside, needless to say she was never asked to bring food to the parties. With all said, theres still someone who says “wheres the Winnie Flo-Tay”

  38. This is an excerpt from my post, “Notes from a Girl Scout Cookie Curmudgeon.”

    The box says Courage, Confidence, Character, but I see Hydrogenated Oil, High-Fructose Corn Syrup, Artificial Flavor. I know…I know. Why do I have to go all Lentil on Girl Scout cookies? They’re as American as childhood obesity. Is nothing sacred? What did the Girl Scouts ever do to me besides sell me subpar snacks? Don’t get me wrong. I’m not judging the girls themselves. They look adorable in their little uniforms as they seductively solicit their wares to strangers—not unlike the big pharma sales reps in those short skirts who roll suitcases of pill samples around to doctors’ offices. There’s just something really attractive about an enterprising entrepreneur pushing a fresh stash of Lexapros or Do-si-dos®.

    You think I like being a cookie curmudgeon? I want to support these young girls on their path to propriety before the tats and nipple rings lead them astray as much as the next guy. I just don’t want to be a party to this kind of “food” that our society so eagerly embraces. You know Girl Scout cookies couldn’t be too healthy when their crack legal team is advising you to eat them in moderation. That’s a little like telling Charlie Sheen to only have one porn star a night. And when they claim zero trans fat when there is actually 0.5%? That’s like saying Sheen only had a tween, so she doesn’t count.

    http://lentilbreakdown.blogspot.com/2011/03/notes-from-girl-scout-cookie-curmudgeon.html

  39. The Leper at the Buffet Table

    When I entered the world of nutrition, I knew there would be perks. I receive goodie bags from vendors and special interest groups hoping I’ll support their products, though I rarely do. I get extra food samples at the delicatessen. I even understand the true health benefits of acai;I know that it cannot allow me to lose 10 pounds in a day or cure cancer. However, there was one perk I didn’t count on: always having the hors d’oeuvres table to myself.

    Upon arriving at an event, I wander in the general direction of the food to check out the mini quiches (always choose bacon) or peruse the cheese platter (Seattleites don’t know how to pick out a good brie) and people, even friends, flee before me. Catch an acquaintance unawares and she immediately covers her mouth and gasps, “Don’t look at what I’m eating!” Why she covers her mouth and not the plate, I’ll never know. Upon being introduced to strangers, one insists that, “Oh, I NEVER eat this way,” while the other lists every vegetable she’s consumed in the last week before they both scurry off to the cash bar, presumably to drown their mortification at having been caught with that bacon-wrapped date by a dietitian.

    While listening to a colleague explain how she’s given up red meat, I look interested and nod sagely. I’m the very model of the professional nutritionist, concerned and attentive. I even make understanding noises at the right intervals. What I don’t do is actually listen. I ponder my patient load for the following week or whether the raspberries are more red than the strawberries because what these poor people don’t know is that I don’t actually care unless I’m paid to. When I tire of the latest litany on lettuce choice, I move on to where none may follow: my sovereign domain, the buffet table.

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