An Easter Brunch Fit for the Pope:
Cadbury Creme Eggs . . . Benedict


Behold!  Cadbury Creme Eggs Benedict, comprised of  

A doughnut.
Topped with a thin slice of fudge brownie.  
Topped by a melting Cadbury Egg "(complete with oozing yolk!)".
Topped with frosting.  
Topped with sprinkles.  
Accompanied by pound cake home fries.  

This outlandish edible edifice, sure to resurrect your waistline and to roll away the stone of your Lenten good behavior, is the creation of Jessie Oleson, also known as Cakespy.  She has posted more gooey chewy toothsome photos of the thing, and the complete recipe for those Kids who want to Try This At Home, at Serious Eats.

That recipe was published on March 1, not April 1, so it's no joke. Approach this harrowing concoction with caution, with due reflection, and perhaps with protective gear, lest once you sit down to it you should find yourself unable to rise again.  

And have a Happy Easter.


Photo: Cadbury Creme Eggs Benedict photo by Jessie Oleson.  Original link via NotionsCapital.


Stompin' at the Savoir Faire

Grape Stomping at Grgich Hills by wallyg

Drink drink, drain your glass, raise your glass high!

    -- David Bowie, "Station to Station"

Thanks to Bottle Shock, the film version of George Taber's Judgment of Paris, many learned a version of the story in which two California wines flabbergasted the naysayers by beating out the best of France in a blind tasting in 1976, lending much desired credibility to California's claims to be taken seriously as a wine region.  

The winning white wine was a 1973 Chardonnay from Chateau Montelena.  That wine is at the center of Bottle Shock, but if you know only what the movie tells you, you have no idea who actually made it.

Chateau Montelena's winemaker at the time was Miljenko "Mike" Grgich, who left that winery shortly after the success of Paris to join with Austin Hills (of the Hills Bros. coffee family) to found Grgich Hills Estate.  For various reasons, Grgich was disinclined to be portrayed in the film version, so he was written out of the story.  This is just one of numerous liberties taken by the film: other than the exterior of the main building at Chateau Montelena, for example, all those lovely vineyard landscapes (as well as all the scenes in "France") were actually shot over the mountains in Sonoma County.  

Now, however, we can offer a short film actually starring Mike Grgich, as well as Orson WellesJames Mason, the real Ronald McDonald, and some jolly elves from Gallo.

From the happy libertarians at, here is the amazing True Story of how free markets, competition and [comparative] freedom from nitpicky government regulation allowed the California wine industry to rise from its subjection to Old Europe to accomplish its manifest destiny to become the brave new world's wine superpower:


Photo: Grape Stomping at Grgich Hills Cellar, Rutherford, CA, by Flickr user wallyg, used under Creative Commons license.


L'art du l'Aventure

On our weekend gallivant into the wine country of Paso Robles, my fellow boondogglers and I paid a call to L'Aventure, where Stephan Asseo produces some of the very finest wines now emerging from California. (Oh, if only they weren't priced in proportion to their quality . . . .)

The winery/tasting room building now sports a mural by French artist Erwin Dazelle, in the graffiti-influenced street art style so beloved of contemporary sophisticates such as C-Monster (whose many photos of such things can be seen here).

Four of this fool's photos follow:






Conjugate Your Way to Total Fitness

Hieronymous Bosch, The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things - Gluttony (1485)

Others have noted Elizabeth Kolbert's New Yorker article-disguised-as-a-book-review, "XXXL: Why are Americans fat?", but they have not noted that the piece fails to reveal the true answer to the question posed in its title.  I will reveal that answer below, but first some random notes on Ms. Kolbert's essay.

Ms. Kolbert discloses, inadvertently, that official studies may actually underestimate the true percentage of overweight individuals in the general population.  She describes the official standard in these studies in such a way — "a woman who is five feet tall would count as overweight if she was more than a hundred and forty pounds, and a man who is six feet tall if he weighed more than two hundred and four pounds" — that it strikes me that we may be "defining 'overweight' down" by fair margin.  Six feet and 204 pounds, unless those pounds are primarily muscle, certainly seems more severe than merely "overweight."  Not outright "obese," perhaps, but certainly "significantly" overweight by my estimation.  (I'm six foot myself, and rather less than 204 pounds, and my missus will be happy to tell you that I still qualify as at least somewhat "overweight."  And she would not be wrong.  But enough about me: what do I think this is, some sort of blog?)

I do recommend the New Yorker piece for its store of intriguing anecdotal evidence, such as this one, to explain how we got this way:

In the early nineteen-sixties, a man named David Wallerstein was running a chain of movie theatres in the Midwest and wondering how to boost popcorn sales.  Wallerstein had already tried matinée pricing and two-for-one specials, but to no avail. . . .  [O]ne night the answer came to him: jumbo-sized boxes.  Once Wallerstein introduced the bigger boxes, popcorn sales at his theatres soared, and so did those of another high-margin item, soda. 
A decade later, Wallerstein had retired from the movie business and was serving on McDonald’s board of directors when the chain confronted a similar problem.  Customers were purchasing a burger and perhaps a soft drink or a bag of fries, and then leaving.  How could they be persuaded to buy more?  Wallerstein’s suggestion — a bigger bag of fries — was greeted skeptically by the company’s founder, Ray Kroc. Kroc pointed out that if people wanted more fries they could always order a second bag. 
'But Ray,' Wallerstein is reputed to have said, 'they don’t want to eat two bags — they don’t want to look like a glutton.'  Eventually, Kroc let himself be convinced; the rest, as they say, is supersizing.
In the words of those svelte reasoners Tweedledum and Tweedledee: "That's Logic."  One bag, even if it contains as much as two bags, is still just one bag, which makes it all all right.

Writing at the Atlantic, Derek Thompson links Kolbert and reduces it all to a combination of price and "elasticity of appetite."  Food prices overall have gone down in recent decades, with fast fatty foods declining the furthest and, well, fastest.  Meanwhile, we humans are structured such that if it's there to eat, we tend to keep on eating it whether or no we have already eaten Enough.

I propose, however, that Thompson too has missed the true cause of our ballooning citizenry, even though he reproduces The Chart in which All is Revealed.  That chart, which comes from a May 5 post by Katherine Rampel on the New York Times' "Economix" weblog, compares the populations of various nations by cross-referencing the time (minutes per day) that the average citizen spends eating against the percentage of the national population that is overweight.  Ms. Rampel suggests that "Slow Food" enthusiasts may be on to something, as countries in which the populace spends more time eating — presumably taking in similar quantities, but at a more leisurely pace — are to some extent also the countries with a less pressing weight problem.

I draw a different conclusion, and I am at a loss to understand why no one else seems to have cottoned to it.  Here is Ms. Rampel's chart.  What is most noticeable about the weight-gainin' nations of the world?

NYT foodfat

Yes, that's right: with the exception of Mexico, an obvious statistical outlier, the overweight populace is heavily concentrated in countries whose principal language is English.  The US, the UK, Australia, New Zealand: we're rounder because we're always rollin', and we're rollin' because, by jingo, We Speak English!  

How to explain Canada's combination of superfast dining with more constrained waistlines?  Clearly it results from the counterweight, so to speak, of having an entire province speaking French!  

So forget Bally's, forget 24-Hour Fitness, forget Weight Watchers, and forget Jenny Craig.  The answer to the nation's weight problem more likely lies with Berlitz and Rosetta Stone.  Write the President and your representatives now, and demand immediate action: a constitutional amendment and individual mandate compelling each of us to be learning and speaking nothing but Esperanto by 2015.  Thank you.


Monsieur Would Enjoy the Chateau Python-Lalande, Perhaps, or the Spambolle-Moosigny?


I did not have the benefit of this Cable Television thing of which I have heard so much at the time this was originally broadcast in 2004. John Cleese -- in a helpful and beneficent vein unimagined by such Cleese avatars as Basil Fawlty -- Explains It All For You in the matter of Grapes and the Beverages for Which They Give Their All.  Basics galore: if you already know these things, you can share it with your friends who do not and they can thank you, and perhaps buy you a bottle of something tasty to show their gratitude.

I like this particularly because most of the time is spent among the wines and vines of Santa Barbara County, which are always deserving of attention.  Proper respect is paid to pinot noir, but not to the exclusion of other nearly-as-good things.


hulu -- John Cleese's "Wine for the Confused" 


Kunsten å koke et eggy-wegg

Eggy-weggs by cbcastro

Easter means, inter alia, eggs.  As a reader service, here are some suggestions for preparing eggs in a variety of styles and textures, with and without their shells.

You have heard, perhaps, of Scotch eggs, reputed to have been invented not by Scots but by the wily London merchants at Fortnum & Mason.  A Scotch egg is a hard-boiled egg encased in a layer of pork sausage, breaded, deep fried and eaten cold, calculated to reinforce every unfortunate opinion Dr. Johnson ever uttered concerning the Scots.  But how, you may ask, does one properly hard boil those eggs in the first place?  For that, we must turn further north than Scotland and look into Norwegian eggs or, more accurately, the University of Oslo's "Kunsten å koke et egg" ("The Art of Cooking an Egg") which explains, in Norwegian, how to achieve exemplary results when boiling one's eggs.  If you don't read Norwegian but are able to convert sizes and temperatures to metric terms, the site provides a clever Flash-driven tool, shown below, to determine precisely how long to boil your particular egg to achieve perfection:


Whatever you may think of Scotch eggs, there is one anglicized Scot who knows a thing or two about the culinary arts, famously hot-tempered chef-restaurateur Gordon Ramsay.  Here, in his more charming mode, Chef Ramsay demonstrates how to prepare perfect scrambled eggs:

I had rather assumed that he simply glared at them and they scrambled themselves.  Viewers of the US version of Hell's Kitchen can only shudder when Chef Ramsay compares scrambling eggs to making risotto.  

The cooking of eggs for a full English breakfast requires the steady and attentive hand of a live chef, and should not be entrusted to unreliable, or mechanized, kitchen staff:

Let's see now.  Scotch eggs. . .  English eggs . . .  Norwegian eggs . . . What more do we need before we conclude?  The answer is obvious: 

Swedish eggs!

Bon appetit and Happy Easter.


Photo: "Eggy-weggs" by Flickr user cbcastro, used under Creative Commons license.  "Eggy-weggs" is a service mark of Alex DeLarge.

Sources: University of Oslo link and Gordon Ramsay video via lifehacker.


Hope: It's What's for Lunch

Festivities, festivities, festivities!

"Hope is the thing with feathers," says Emily Dickinson, so it is only right that the 44th President of the United States should begin his term of service by sitting down to eat a brace of formerly feathered things.  Frazer would understand.

This evening, there will be Inaugural Balls on nearly every theme, but there will be no Policeman's Ball.   This is because all of the police are so busy.

So, as we wait in Hope for the Change we Need, let us all join hands in a Spirit of Optimism and Sacrifice and sing along with Mr. Alan Price:


Nunc est Bibendum

Repeal car crop

December 5 of each year is Repeal Day, the anniversary of the adoption of the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the repeal of the national policy of Prohibition.  This particular December 5 is not just any Repeal Day: it is the 75th Repeal Day, and thus an occasion for especial, if prudent, celebration.

So, with the famous spokescreature for Michelin tires -- who predates Prohibition and is, in any case, French and thus imbued with the sensible French attitude toward wines and spirits -- this Fool toasts you all.  Now is the time to drink or, as Horace would have it, Nunc Est Bibendum!

Nunc est bibendum

To conclude, a bonus tribute to Monsieur Bib:

Dr. Seuss and the Wisdom of Popovers


Dr. Seuss was already comfortably established as a children's author when I was in short pants*, so comfortably that it was and is easy to forget that he was an inveterate upsetter of apple carts and skeptic of received wisdom.

The National Association of Scholars has been running a series of articles on higher education reform, somehow built around themes from the Good Doctor's If I Ran the Zoo.  On her weblog, Critical Mass, Erin O'Connor has reproduced her contribution (with Maurice Black) to the discussion: an essay built around Dr. Seuss' graduation speech to the class of 1977 at Lake Forest College, the entire text of which speech is here reproduced:

My Uncle Terwilliger on the Art of Eating Popovers

My uncle ordered popovers
from the restaurant’s bill of fare.
And, when they were served,
he regarded them
with a penetrating stare…
Then he spoke great Words of Wisdom
as he sat there on that chair:
'To eat these things,'
said my uncle,
'you must exercise great care.
You may swallow down what’s solid…
you must spit out the air!'

as you partake of the world’s bill of fare,
that’s darned good advice to follow.
Do a lot of spitting out the hot air.
And be careful what you swallow.

Theodore Geisel became "Dr. Seuss," as Erin explains, while attending Dartmouth in the 1920s, in response to "Geisel" being banned by collegiate authorities from contributing to the school's humor magazine.  Variants on "Terwilliger" or "Terwilliker" had a recurring importance in Seuss World, including the authoritarian appearance of the latter, in the person of Hans Conried, as the titular "T" in The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T, the very "embodiment of the worst sorts of pedagogical abuse."  The young narrator of If I Ran the Zoo, she suggests, in his utopian glee is not necessarily an improvement, as "he sounds a great deal like that generation of academic reformers, now reaching retirement, that has worked so hard to do away with traditional ideas of what is worth knowing largely because they are traditional ideas of what is worth knowing."

When he reemerges at Lake Forest many years later, the now-avuncular Terwilliger achieves his most benevolent form:

Having mellowed over time, Uncle Terwilliger appears at the Lake Forest graduation not in the capacity of a teacher, but in the special incapacity of an uncle -- who by definition has no real authority over his nieces and nephews.  His graduation advice reflects his comfortably powerless position.  When he tells students to be wary of hot air, he is telling them to think for themselves.  When he points out that popovers contain hot air, he is urging his audience to recognize that the good and the bad come jumbled together, and that in order to get at the one you have to be able to identify and reject the other.  He is, in other words, going to the heart of what education ideally enables one to do: to think independently, and to come to one's own conclusions about what to do, be, and believe.

As Thomas Mendip mused, "What a wonderful thing is metaphor." 

Read the complete O'Connor/Black/Seuss essay at Critical Mass or (with illustrations) at NAS.


Photo: "Popover with Ocean Backdrop" (at the Cliff House, San Francisco), by Flickr user Cameron Maddux, used under Creative Commons license.


*  Yes, I actually was in short pants.  There exists a photo, which I'll not reproduce here because it's not been scanned in to digital form, showing me in my bow-tied and short-pantsed Sunday Best in the company of my long-suffering Bear.  We were both of us much younger, and much closer to the same height, in those days.