Monday, November 21, 2016

a beast of a feast

So we had our post-election party yesterday. Three friends ended up coming over: Tom, Charles, and Patrick. Tom and Patrick showed off their chrome domes (you'll see a photo below); everyone took a walk around and admired the Trumpian decor, which was all in the spirit of good, satirical fun. The guys attacked my cheese plate (a cheese tray or cheese board, really), and I was surprised to discover how popular the chèvre was; I would never have guessed. Almost no one went for the salmon mousse; I can't blame my guests: the mousse was heavy on capers, and the salmon, which I had purchased frozen, was a bit dicey, anyway. I ended up throwing the mousse away.

There's a story behind the bread. I had held off on getting baguettes until the very day of the party mainly because, once sliced into crostini-sized pieces, the bread would either dry quickly or become rubbery overnight. So at about noon on Sunday, I went down to my apartment building's lobby, where a branch of the dreaded Paris Baguette chain is located. I'm not a fan of this chain's baguettes, but (1) the convenience of having a bakery in your building can't be denied, and (2) although the baguettes would be sub-par, they would serve tolerably well as conveyances for butter, cheese, and salmon mousse.

I went into the bakery, making a beeline for the baguette section. There was nothing there but those annoyingly altered baguettes—the ones done up with butter, garlic, herbs, and that ever-present sheen of sugar. "Are there no regular baguettes?" I asked one guy. He looked across the room to the counter girls: "Hey, are we getting any regular baguettes?" One girl called back, looking at me, "We ran out, but there'll be more after 3 o'clock." I grimaced, nodded, and left. I then puttered around my place, finalizing prep for my 4:30PM arrivals, just whiling away the hours. When 3:05 rolled around, I went back down... and no baguettes.

"Are there no regular baguettes?" I asked again, this time to what appeared to be a wholly different set of staffers. A guy answered with assurance: "No, we ran out a while ago—" I was there for that when it happened around noon—"so we're all out and aren't making any more."

"But the lady had said there'd be baguettes after 3," I said. Abashed looks, no response. I once again grimaced, nodded, and left. How could Paris Baguette not have any baguettes?

Feeling thoroughly fucked by a bakery chain that I don't even like, I took a taxi over to the Daechi neighborhood, close to where I work. I had recently discovered a much better bakery in that area, so I directed the taxi driver to drop me off at that establishment's corner. I went in, saw the place had baguettes, grabbed three, and waited while a lady sawed the bread into pieces with a mean-looking serrated knife. Baguette-slicing is normally done by machine; I appreciated this bakery's old-school approach to bread torture. With three bags' worth of sliced bread now in hand, I rushed back to my place and finished prep in time to receive my guests. Charles arrived first, followed by Tom and Patrick. And then the madness ensued.

Surprisingly, there wasn't nearly as much beer-and-baseball talk as had happened on previous occasions. Tom brought more than the requisite amount of tastelessness to dinner conversation, and then he had the brilliant notion of going on YouTube and queuing up the "squeal like a pig" rape scene involving plump Ned Beatty in the 70s classic thriller "Deliverance." Many inside jokes were tossed about, and in the end, almost everyone disdained the nacho/taco-salad option in favor of loading up on chili dogs. I belatedly realized that I had forgotten to break out the guacamole, but that didn't seem to matter, and Patrick was kind enough to taste the guac when I did finally bring it out. "It's got a kick to it," he remarked, noting the tons of chili peppers that I had added to the avocado purée. My overall impression of the evening was that gullets had been royally stuffed, spirits universally lifted, and toilets eventually frightened into submission.

What follows are some food pics, a pic of Charles's intrusive crotch and hands, and a pic of the three guys, two of whom are cancer-patient bald (never did find out why). Some explanations will accompany the images. Enjoy.

First up: no one is paying me to shill for these, but if you're in Korea and looking for a reliably American-style brand of Korean hot dog, I highly, highly recommend No Brand "grill franks." As you can see in the picture below, each individual frank costs less than W1,000—about 85 cents, US. That's fairly reasonable by Korean standards. These franks respond well to microwaving and to boiling; yesterday, I boiled my dogs for five hours before we set about slaughtering them.

No Brand grill franks:

Next up: vulgarly shaped balloons reminiscent of a dick and scrote. The scrote-like balloons are actually supposed to be heart balloons, but come on—just look at them in the package! The dick balloons' final shape is laid out as a yellow silhouette on the packaging—see it?


Below, a first attempt at the dick-and-balls scenario. I ended up hanging this up, and Charles remarked that the dick looked remarkably like a duck's penis.

Orange, in honor of our president-elect's unique coloration:

Below: six of the seven cheeses I ended up serving. Not pictured: bleu. The Gruyère ended up sucking; I can see why people stayed away from it. I ended up throwing that piece of cheese away, too.

Six cheeses (plus one not pictured) for the cheese board:

Making a cheese plate is common sense, not rocket science. That said, I had a little help in mapping out the problem from a French guy named Laurent, who once gave a lecture on cheese-making at Sookmyung Women's University, back when I was a prof there (2005-08). Basically, you can map most cheeses onto quadrants defined by an X-Y axis, one axis being hard/soft, and the other being mild/sharp. You may not agree with how I've mapped my cheeses below, but I thought the arrangement worked out well.

You will, of course, hear finger-wagging admonitions like "never use the same knife to slice different cheeses because you don't want bacteria-sharing" or "ideally, cheese should always be served at room temperature." It's not that these pearls of wisdom are untrue, but they do represent the American fetishization of European culture: in reality, most regular, middle-class French families don't give a damn about the cheese's temperature when served, and they also use the same knife when slicing and serving different cheeses. It's Americans who have taken these French conventions and exaggerated their significance to the point of being precious and pretentious. Much the same is true with American attitudes toward wine: Europeans tend to be relaxed and blasé about wine because it's as common a drink, on the Continent, as Coca Cola is in North America; meanwhile, Americans will obsess far more over vintage, terroir, and other factors. Ridiculous.

That said, I did have seven cheese knives on the cheese board, and I made sure to serve the cheeses at room temperature. Make of that what you will.

Cheese map:

Below: a picture of the relabeled bottle of store-bought salsa, which I re-spun as "salsa for pussies" because it was mild, as opposed to my smoky salsa, which was significantly hotter. The label wraps all the way around the bottle, and there are plenty more bits of text and imagery to look at. The Spanish across the top says, "Salsa for small dicks." Across the bottom, the English says, "Salsa for pussies—grab it!" Ethnically offensive chili peppers flank Trump's face. Off to the right, which you can't see below, the text reads:

Since 1886, the Drumpf family has made its Salsa Para Las Pollas Pequeñas by using only the freshest horsemeat and the tastiest prostitutes in a combinatory process that produces the Drumpf family's trademark "whore's meat," which has a mild, smooth flavor and alluring aroma.

Off to the left is a picture of an angry old woman giving the finger, along with the caption: "Comes with a Lifetime Guarantee from Grandma Drumpf herself!"

Mild salsa:

Dick-and-balls balloons with white pubes:

Click to enlarge (then right-click & "open image in new tab" for full size):

Ribbons, posters, and the kitchenette:

Donald Trump guards my horrifying bathroom, plus some Bundaberg ginger beer and bitters (NB: the basin was eventually filled with bottles of Bundaberg, which only I drank):

Click to enlarge (then right-click & "open image in new tab" for full size):

Click to enlarge (then right-click & "open image in new tab" for full size):

Not very well Photoshopped, but amusing all the same: Trump as Jaws:

Click to enlarge (then right-click & "open image in new tab" for full size):

Some Bundaberg ginger beer and lemon-lime bitters:

Above my washer:

Trump, looking like windblown Boris Johnson:

Charles and his crotch stand guard by the food:

A horrifying shot of dogs boiling. Also—chili in a double-boiler/chafing-dish setup:

A word about the chili pic below: no, the chili isn't burned; that's just an artifact of the lighting. As you saw in the previous photo, I had set up a double boiler, so the chili pot was being subjected to a "wet heat," not to direct heat from the gas range's burner. (And no, that's not a pool of grease: it's just water, which was easy to stir back into the chili.)

Chili, which was pretty damn good:

And now, the shot you've been waiting for! The Three Horsemen: Bald Patrick, Bald Tom, and Charles. Listening to Patrick and Tom bicker over small matters is like listening to a married couple's constant carping. (Apologies for blurriness.)

Charles's skeletal hand laying out little slices of homemade candied ginger on top of his homemade gingerbread cake with homemade icing:

Charles's skeletal hand sinks its fell scythe deep into the hapless cake's soul, claiming the confection for all eternity and proclaiming it off-limits to mortal men:

The outside of my door:

Click to enlarge (then right-click & "open image in new tab" for full size):

Bread and salmon, pretty much uneaten:

We managed to finish almost all of the chili that I'd prepped (there was another whole container of it in the fridge). I had given the diners two options for the main course: chili dogs or nachos/taco salad. The unanimous vote was for chili dogs, a fact that I will file away and keep for future reference, just as I'll keep my guests' strange preference for chèvre in mind, should I ever do another cheese board.

Today at the office, I took a ton of leftovers to work to share with my boss and coworker, and they chose exactly the same way, disdaining the nacho option in favor of concentrating on chili dogs. Who knew chili dogs would have such a strong appeal? I didn't... but I do now.

ADDENDUM: Oh, by the way, Trump did get some mention during dinner, but not all that much. I think the grim consensus was that we just need to forge ahead and deal with the new reality. One of our number voiced the opinion that Hillary was a criminal who ought to be in jail. This was met with silence, but I quietly agreed.


  1. Chili dogs touch something primal deep down inside of us. I don't know what it is, but it's just one of those facts of life.

    Truth be told, I just kind of forgot about the salmon entirely in the face of all that cheese. Kind of like how I forgot about the nachos in the face of those chili dogs. When it comes to food, I guess I am a horrible multitasker (this could be why I'm not a big fan of buffets).

  2. Heh. No one ate the salmon mousse. Frozen salmon. Not canned... I'm still smiling inside thinking about how you narrowly avoided a visit by the Grim Reaper.

  3. Mike,

    Yeah, this was an asked-and-answered scenario from 1983, wasn't it...

    But does this now put us into a "Final Destination" scenario in which Death will have the last word?



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