Tuesday, February 22, 2005

A Gonzo Breakfast / Gonzo Glaucoma

The late Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, who died by his own hand earlier this week, was not famous for writing about food. However, there are a couple of passages worthy of note here.

The first is his view of the ritual of breakfast, written in 1976:

I like to eat breakfast alone, and almost never before noon: anybody with a terminally jangled lifestyle needs at least 1 psychic anchor every 24 hours, and mine is breakfast. In Hong Kong, Dallas, or at home -- and regardless of whether or not I have been to bed -- breakfast is a personal ritual that can only be observed alone, and in a spirit of genuine excess. The food factor should always be massive: four Bloody Marys, two grapefruits, a pot of coffee, Rangoon crepes, a half-pound of either sausage, bacon or corned-beef has with diced chilies, a Spanish omelette or eggs Benedict, a quart of milk, a chopped lemon for random seasoning, and something like a slice of key lime pie, two margaritas and six lines of the best cocaine for dessert ... Right, and there should also be two or three newspapers, all mail and messages, a telephone, a notebook for planning the next 24 hours, and at least one source of good music ... all of which should be dealt with outside, in the warmth of a hot sun, and preferably stone naked.

In a later paragraph of this article ("Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 1976," Rolling Stone, no. 214, p. 54-64) he mentions that breakfast takes 3 hours for him. I can believe it, even allowing for his habitual blend of fact and fiction in his writing. I also have to take into account the fact that he had a more active metabolism than most people; I sure as heck wouldn't want to try to eat that much, even in three hours.

By the way, the above passage was quoted from Thompson's book The Great Shark Hunt, a select compilation of his work to 1977. In the title article, Thompson describes another recipe, this one for an alcoholic drink:

... Bloor's mannerisms were becoming more and more psychotic. He took one sip of his drink, then whacked it down onto the table and stared at me. "What is this?" he snarled.

"A double margarita," I said, glancing over at the waitress to see if she had her eye on us.

She did, and Bloor waved at her.

"What do you want?" I whispered.

"Glaucoma," he said.

The waitress was on us before I could argue. Glaucoma is an extremely complicated mix of about nine unlikely ingredients that Bloor had learned from some randy old woman he met on the porch of the Bal-Hai. She'd taught the bartender there how to make it: very precise measurements of gin, tequila, Kahlua, crushed ice, fruit juices, lime rinds, spices -- all mixed to perfection in a tall frosted glass.

I wondered if this drink recipe actually existed. As it turns out, it does:


1 oz Vodka
1 oz Rum
1 oz Gin
1 oz Kahlua Coffee Liqueur
4 oz Lemon Juice
1 tsp SugarIce

Pour all ingredients over crushed ice in a shaker. Shake well. Strain into a frosted glass.

Monday, February 14, 2005

The Decadent Mushroom Ramen

This is one of those dishes which I classify as comfort food for a winter day. It's not exactly a healthy dish (the fat content is a question mark) but I still find it a good stomach settler.

Cream of mushroom soup is one of those dishes that can be considered a "fake luxury." When made right, with fresh mushrooms and real cream, it can be a real delight to start a gourmet meal. But everyone is all too familiar with the Campbell's condensed variety, which is okay but cheap and boring after a while.

The problem I have with Campbell's (and in fact, with most condensed mushroom soups) is that there's not enough mushroom and too much cream broth. Apart from using it as a basis for cream gravy or sauce, I figured that something had to be done to make this a more lively dish to eat.

My answer? Adding ramen noodles.

When prepared properly, the noodles will suck up the liquid rendering the soup to a a thicker consistency than normal. The noodles themselves will pick up the mushroom flavor and take on a more chewy consistency than if you had used plain water to boil them. With the addition of green onions and just a touch of sesame oil, it's a more exotic eating experience than what you normally get with mushroom soup.

The Decadent Mushroom Ramen

1 can condensed cream of mushroom Soup
1 can water

1 package instant ramen noodles (any variety)
1 green onion, minced
sesame oil (optional)

1. Prepare soup in a medium saucepan with 1 can water. Do not use milk or cream or else soup will become too thick. Add the sesame oil and stir to blend, if using.

2. When soup begins to simmer, add the ramen noodles. (You can break the noodle pack in half if your saucepan doesn't have room.) Stir about until the noodles begin to soften, then flip the noodle pack over and cook until the noodles come apart and have a soft give when they're pressed with your stir spoon.

3. Stir in the green onion.

4. When noodles have the desired give, pour into a large Chinese noodle bowl and serve.

Friday, February 04, 2005

On Cleaning Cupboards and Coffee Cups

This morning, as part of my efforts to keep my kitchen functional, I did some cleaning up of my cupboards.

I've lived in my current residence for about 12 years. It's amazing what you can accommodate in terms of kitchenware in that space of time. Most people do, in the course of a lifetime. In my case the things that were eating up my cupboard space were ... cups. Coffee cups.

I don't drink as much coffee as I did when I was in college (although that habit may go up again now that I've shifted to working at night), but over the course of years I managed to get enough cups to fill up two shelves of my cupboards. I had a look at them, wondering how I got so many.

The majority of them were commuter cups, differing shapes and sizes. I remember getting the larger cups in my twenties, when I was studying hard and needed a major blast of caffeine. There was also one I bought at Disney World because when you used it you got unlimited drinks during your stay. A couple of them were corporate promotional items, from consultants and vendors seeking business from my employers.

The thing about commuter cups is, because they're designed to hold warmth in (and are thus made of plastic, or have vacuum wall construction) ... they're pretty darned ugly designs.The exception I'm prepared to make is the "shipboard" design, which bulges at the bottom so that the cup's centre of gravity is lowered.

A lot of them were from restaurants or d├ępanneurs. You gotta admit, nowadays you can't pass by a coffee-shop that doesn't sell a plastic or metal or ceramic mug of some sort to the public. Ostensibly, it's to protect the environment by reducing the use of styrofoam or paper cups. Personally I think it's just a cash grab.

I'm not getting rid of all of my cups, but I need a good reason to keep a few. Some are presents from relatives or close friends, and have sentimental value. Some because they're good designs. Several years ago Maxwell House used to mail you a Max mug if you sent them a proof of purchase. I use this one a lot because the design's a good one; you can drink coffee without burning yourself. (The makers of Kahlua, on the other hand, put out a ceramic mug as a promotional item that was a rotten design because you burned your knuckles when you held it. Nowadays I'm using it as a pencil holder.) There are also a couple I bought from an exhibit of RMS Titanic in Toronto a few years ago, based on the old White Star design. I like them because they're easily stackable and the shallowness of the cup makes them ideal for snack-sized portions of soup.

As for the rest, I'm taking them to the local Salvation Army. I'm sure there are people who would like a cheap mug to take on the bus.