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Sunday
Jun302013

Public Service Message: Beware the Snack Cracker

Headline: Wheat Thin nearly kills Fresno woman!

Reported on June 19th at 9:42am; a Fresno woman was recently gored by a common household cracker, the Wheat Thin. Injuries to her mouth were severe, in addition to on-going psychological damage. She described the experience as traumatic. She claims she can “fit 10 crackers in her mouth at one time”. She also shared her experience on Facebook. The woman claimed to simply bite down when the Wheat Thin attacked her. According to the victim, this was not the first time Wheat Thins have caused her pain.

Since the initial report on Facebook, several more victims have stepped forward claiming similar violence from potato chips, tortilla chips, pita crisps and other common household snacks.

I too have been victimized by household snack crackers, the Wasa Cracker.

Of German origin and made with German precision, the Wasa Cracker is a 4”x1” rectangle and perfectly crisp. Each of the four corners of the Wasa Cracker is razor sharp. Insert the cracker into your mouth at the wrong angle or try to take too big a bite straight on...Wasa Blitzkrieg!

As there are mandatory warnings for everything from dairy and peanut allergy sufferers, should there not be a warning for sharp objects inserted into the mouth, like Snack Crackers? For legal reasons, warning labels are ubiquitous these days. Why not:

Warning:

Snack crackers have been known to cause severe dental and mouth injuries. Additionally, psychological damage may occur if you do indeed cut yourself with a snack cracker or even anticipate being cut. If you experience Post Traumatic Stress, please seek appropriate medical attention. Snack crackers have sharp edges, insert into mouth with caution. Never grab the point of a snack cracker with your fingers, as the edges are sharp and could cause injury to your fingers. Never blindly put your hand in a snack cracker package, always pour crackers from the bag onto a hard, flat surface, preferably stainless steel or granite. Never leave an open package of snack crackers unattended. Children under the age of 12 should not handle snack crackers. Pregnant women should keep a minimum safe distance from snack crackers. Do not take large bites of snack crackers. Please notify you dentist if you eat snack crackers regularly. If you eat snack crackers for more than 4 hours, please see your doctor immediately. The application of dips, sauces, salsas or other liquids have not proven to soften snack crackers and may increase your risk of injury. If you are a hemophiliac, do not eat snack crackers. Never look directly at the point of a snack cracker. Eat snack crackers at your own risk.

This has been a Public Service Message from The Cured Ham

Sunday
Jun162013

Bacon versus Tofu Throwdown Nonsense

people…Soylent Green is made out of people…they’re making our food out of people

With respect to Bethany and Josh, trying to find the best chefs in town to cook tofu is ridiculous. The mere fact that there are people in Fresno who want to be known as tofu specialists is preposterous. I'm issuing a warning to all Fresno Chefs...cooking tofu and being paraded around Grizzlies stadium is akin to a naked, public flogging for a parking ticket.

It's common sense and being a human...Bacon is better than Tofu!

So who is this event for? Soy enthusiasts? Vegans? Disenfranchised youth? Masochists? Occupy:Bacon? Is tofu even served at baseball games? Oh, that's right, Mom, Apple Pie, Baseball, and Tofu...pure nonsense.

Poor, flaccid, pale tofu. The underdog...the sympathy vote. Let's find good chefs in Fresno who usually cook animal protein and embarrass them by making them compete against bacon...and lose. Bacon versus Tofu sounds like it should be sponsored by the Soylent Corporation.

By the way, if vegans only eat vegetables, what do humanists eat?

The worst chef, the worst home cook on their worst day can cook a passable piece of bacon if they tried. The best chefs in the country elevate bacon to heavenly bliss. Oh, we can quibble about crunchiness, curled ends, and texture of improperly cooked bacon, but that has more to do with the cook than the bacon. Virtually all bacon is the same in terms of cooking process and generally comes pre-sliced. Bacon doesn’t require any seasoning, not even salt and no oil; simply a moderately hot pan, your attention, and virtually any kitchen utensil to turn the bacon over once.

I can cook a piece of bacon with a toothpick, a metal hub cap and a fire.

Tofu cooked by the worst cook in Fresno on their worst day is a disaster waiting to happen. Tofu cooked by a talented chef is an obliglation at best. Should the horrible cook use a cast iron skillet, non-stick, or stainless pan? Should they use oil and what type? What should they season the tofu with and how much seasoning is needed? How long should they cook the tofu? At what temperature should we cook the tofu? And wait there’s more. What tofu should the cook choose, Soft or Silken, Firm, Extra Firm? At what thickness should I cut the cube? Should I dry the tofu before placing it into a pan?

No one can cook tofu with a toothpick, a metal hub cap and a fire.

Let’s take a look at the general properties of tofu, carbon monoxide and cyanide: 

  1. Flavorless
  2. Colorless
  3. Odorless 

There’s no need to stop with the similarities of tofu and industrial poisons; I’ve compiled a short list of

Things Never Heard at ANY Restaurant…EVER: 

  • Could I have extra tofu on my burger?
  • Can I substitute Soynannaise on my Tofu, Lettuce and Tomato sandwich?
  • I was starving this morning for breakfast, so I had tofu and eggs to start my day!
  • Mi scusi uomo? E la Carbonara pasta fatta con seta o impresa tofu?
  • Yes, I’d love chives, Tofutti, Bac’uns, and Nucoa on my baked potato 

Tofu is manipulated and heavily influenced by the cook and cooking process. Plain tofu is bland, without texture. Tofu is like an adolescent child screaming for identification from its peers, parents, teachers, and siblings; amorphous and desperately in need of seasoning, acting out trying to be like the other kids. The Tofu Burger, Tofu Cheese, Tofu Bacon...phony posers wishing they were something else.

Bacon needs no accompaniment, no catalyst. Bacon can act as a solitary creature or as a complimentary player in a group. Bacon is clearly identifiable and we can trace its origins. Bacon is beautiful, simple, elegant, dignified. Bacon is wise. Bacon is calm. Bacon always smiles.

My name is The Cured Ham and I love Bacon!

Wednesday
Jun052013

A Public Service Message from The Cured Ham

The Cured Ham is a Tree Hugger!

The Cured Ham loves Fresno Heat!

The Cured Ham is Cheap!

I thought of all these titles for shock value, but none of them are a complete truth. The Cured Ham appreciates saving energy, prefers dry heat (try spending time in Southern Italy in Summer), and is frugal, all might be more accurate but less interesting as headlines.

The real truth and real headline, The Cured Ham dries his clothes on a clothesline!

Talk about boring. No, next week I will not talk about watching paint dry.

Sometime after the fig leaf, humans probably strung up a line to dry the loin cloth. It really has been since just after World War II that American’s have been using a washer and dryer. Nowadays, we have all sorts of energy efficient ways to wash and dry things. However, nothing is more efficient or inexpensive (how about FREE) to dry clothes than the sun.

I know, there’s some downside to drying clothes in the sun. Crusty towels (one of my cousins reminded me of this)

But there are upsides to a clothesline…Zero Static Cling and Crusty Towels act as an Exfoliant Skin Treatment. That's right people, dry your clothes, save money on dryer sheets, and exfoliate all for one low price!

Growing up in Fresno during the 70’s, my mother dried our clothes on the line. Eventually, my parents purchased a dryer. When I moved away to San Francisco, drying my clothes in the Richmond District of San Francisco, 26th and California to be exact, was not conducive to drying anything. Living in the Outer Richmond if you didn’t dry your clothes fully in the dryer, it was more likely you would have grown a mold. For those that don’t know, the Outer Richmond is fairly cold, damp, and windy, as it’s near the ocean and Golden Gate Park. 

Upon my return to Fresno last year, I began to dry my clothes outside during summer. Call it a return to tradition. Call it experience. I lived in Europe, specifically Italy, a few years back, in addition to traveling a lot in various countries around the world, Morocco, Ecuador, New Zealand; where I could wash my clothes somewhere, but nearly always had to dry them outside. Even relatively wealthy families in Europe didn’t own a clothes dryer and certainly none of the places I stayed had one.

Of course, I can’t forget many a summer backpacking and climbing, washing my clothes in a creek and drying them on my tent or a tree stump. 

I hate 108 heat.

Nothing likes 108 degree heat

Except wet clothes…and my tomato plants. 

So give it a try, dry your clothes on the line this summer, because it's too late to plant tomatoes.

This concludes the Public Service Message from The Cured Ham.

Friday
May242013

Italian Peppers from Backyard Farms

Certified Backyard Farms Italian Peppers are here! I'm going to have to wait another week or two for my tomatoes though. These peppers will be served at lunch today, none will be spared!

Monday
May202013

Star Trek:Into Darkness or Into Apostasy?

“Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven.” 

One dream of mine was to meet James T. Kirk. I dressed up as The Captain on my first day of kindergarten. I invited William Shatner to my high school graduation party. Just a couple of months ago, it made me very happy to meet William Shatner in person. I’m a Trekkie after all.

In addition to being a huge fan of cured meat products, I’ve been perhaps a bigger fan of Star Trek. I’ve got a lot of useless trivia about Star Trek stashed in my brain. Not just from the original series, but from TNG, DS9, Voyager, Enterprise, and of course, the movies.

One movie in particular I can recite chapter and verse, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Without doubt, it was the best of the movies; spun from the original series Space Seed episode, introducing Ricardo Montalban as Khan. For those that don’t understand who Khan is and what he represents to Capt. Kirk, Khan is to Kirk as The Borg are to Picard, The Joker is to Batman; Ahab to Moby Dick; the perfect pair. Great characters are often defined by their arch-nemesis.

“My name is Khan, please sit and entertain me”

Star Trek: Into Darkness is a mockery of Star Trek and Khan. Into Darkness is a blunt instrument with one-liners, pandering to soft-core Star Trek fans and those uninitiated with no sense for the classic Star Trek Canon, dare I say adolescents, who crave CGI, running, shooting, and big things blowing up.

Star Trek at its core is melodrama, meaning generally, the good guy wins but sometimes with painful consequences. The Wrath of Khan is the epitome of that melodramatic lesson. Star Trek is basically a classic Western at heart, with Capt. Kirk essentially playing the same role over and over again like John Wayne; brash, bold, respectful, strong, charismatic, an ethical man who stands on principal and has a code he lives by. And Kirk always had a girl or two stashed around the frontier, because he’s Kirk.

“I'll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition's flames before I give him up”

I’ll start with some good news about Into Darkness. Adding Dr. Carol Marcus to the story was clever and appropriate. Dr McCoy and Scotty are still the best characters in the re-booted Star Trek story.  The Enterprise under water? I’ll buy it. The fact that there was a coolant leak in the warp core happens all the time and we all know that’s bad. And for the record, I liked J.J.’s first Star Trek re-boot. I think Pine and Quinto have good chemistry and play their characters as instructed, albeit, flawed.

Pandering seems to be what passes as reverence these days in re-boots. Dropping a Mudd reference, experimenting on dead Tribbles, noting the 72 pods, a name-drop of Nurse now Dr. Chapel, or quoting lines from previous episodes or films, like “needs of the many”, might be enough for those soft-core Trekkie fans to get a tickle. But it’s simple pandering without substance or story. Too clever by half J.J.

Having Kirk kick the warp core to save the Enterprise? I’m sorry J.J., but Han punches the Falcon in order to get it to start; Kirk doesn’t kick the Enterprise, Kirk has Scotty to fix things, not a Wookie. Oh, that’s right J.J., you wrote Scotty off the ship.

And the warp core connection doesn’t look like the inside of the Death Star in Return of the Jedi. Thank you for not making the inside of the warp core look like two NOMAD devices end-to-end. Obviously even J.J. has his pandering limit.

Pandering I can deal with...

With Into Darkness however, watching Kirk, Spock, and Khan cry in the same film; getting in touch with their feelings, having daddy issues, girl-friend trouble, and an overall sensitivity to their crew, cryo-frozen or otherwise, was too much for me to deal with. Kirk and Spock have a Bromance fit for 21st Century television of sensitive men, prime-time soap operas, like Alias and Lost, not hardened, self-assured explorers capable of a 5-year voyage under the discipline of the Federation.

“He tasks me…he tasks me and I shall have him”

Khan doesn’t cry…he conquers. He quotes the classics. He is smarter than everyone else, stronger, better; mentally, physically. In Space Seed, within 24 hours of Khan awakening, he’s thinking about getting laid (and plotting ahead) as he manipulates Marla McGivers. Into Darkness’ opening scene reflects Khan in the proper light, a thinking, ruthless intellect, who plans ahead. The rest of movie simply accentuates his brutality, nothing more. Unfortunate, because Khan is so much more; more to Trekkies and more to Kirk.

As I mentioned, great heroes like Kirk need to be matched against great villains like Khan. But J.J. strips Kirk of this respect and connection. Spock takes down Khan in this movie, not Kirk. Spock will always be helpful in bringing down Khan; even rescuing Kirk is permitted by Spock; so that Kirk can exact final justice on Khan. But Spock should NEVER be allowed to bring Khan to justice. Never.

The Next Generation writers understood this Hero/Nemesis in the relationship Picard has with The Borg. Riker could only save Picard, but Picard had to beat the Borg through his will, not Riker’s or Data’s. Riker was willing to kill everyone to beat the Borg blowing up the Enterprise in the process; all Picard had to do was put the Borg to sleep. Picard’s elegant solution to a grand problem; one man takes down an entire collective.

In one final act of disrespect by Mr. Abrams, Khan is locked away like the Ark of the Covenant by “top men”, only to be potentially wheeled out in another J.J. manufactured twist in a future sequel. What’s next J.J.? Fighting the Borg and you need Khan to help you?

Khan is a warrior; a man who deserves a warrior’s death or at least the respect given to him by Kirk in Space Seed…exile; a justice worthy of the quoting of Milton. Khan should never be locked away in J.J.’s private sequel trophy vault for later parading like some circus freak.

“Not chess Mr. Spock…poker”

Kirk may have issues, in the original and the re-boot, but he’s never weak; never a hot-mess. Kirk is controlled, yet uncontrollable. Kirk is emotional, but doesn’t allow his emotions to control him, that’s McCoy’s job. Kirk is the balance between Spock and McCoy, the pure logic and the wild emotion, often surprising Mr. Spock with brilliant logic equal to his own, like defeating the NOMAD in The Changeling or teaching Spock a lesson beyond pure logic, like in the Corbomite Maneuver.

Kirk as interpreted by J.J. is wildly flawed, doubtful, almost weak; pouting when he doesn’t win. Kirk never pouted, he fought, he struggled, he persevered.

“Command of a starship is your first, best destiny. Anything else, would be a waste of material.”

Kirk is the Captain. His duty is to his oath, his ship, his crew and the hardship that goes with it. His pain makes him stronger, more resilient, equal to the task. Anything less is out of character.

Even two Red Shirts are “pardoned” by J.J.

Asked by Kirk to take their red uniforms off before their raid on Kronos, the Red Shirts are then given names?! Blasphemy! Allow the Red Shirts the dignity of being killed as nameless crewmen, that’s their job. Red Shirts are expendable crewman, nothing more. Think of them as Storm Troopers without masks…they all wear the same uniform and are killed in every movie and TV show without remorse or regret. I would be honored to be an expendable crewman!

J.J. Abrams is an Apostate!

Mr. Abrams should have taken a lesson from World Wrestling Entertainment. If a big-time wrestler coins a phrase, no other wrestler may use it. The signature “Woooo” from Ric Flair is one of those lines. So when William Shatner shouts “Khaaaaan” in Wrath of Khan, that simple word, that line, delivered only in a way that Mr. Shatner can over-act and deliver it, will be his for eternity. No other actor can have it, no other Kirk may use it, no matter how tempting.

It was apostasy to allow Zachary Quinto, in another J.J. manufactured twist, to shout the word "Khan". End of story. At that moment, I formally renounced Into Darkness as apostasy. My reconciliation? I immediately turned on Netflix when I got home and watched Space Seed followed up by quoting line-by-line the first battle scene in Wrath of Khan.

To summarize Into Darkness for the devout Trekkie like me; the loss of dignity and lack of respect for Khan, Kirk, and even the expendable crewmen is inexcusable and unforgivable. Leave the daddy issues, girl-friend trouble, self-doubt, and crying for shows like Alias and Lost.

The Big Chair doesn’t have room for weakness.

To close, there is only one line that is fit for Mr. Abrams and this apostasy: “To the last, I grapple with thee; from Hell’s heart, I stab at thee; for hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee!”

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