Monday, December 22, 2008

A Truly Horrid Idea and Applebee's Is Just Plain Nasty

You used to be able to get these Japanese felt-tip brush pens -- they had a terra cotta-colored rubbery exterior and a fine brush on one end and a thick brush on the other. When they started going dry you could pull them open and dose 'em with more ink. I loved those pens. Where did they go?

This piece was fun to do -- just whip it out in ten minutes or so. Working fast was the point. No sketching, no preconceptions -- just let the hand do what it will. I need to start sketching again.

It used to be that the words used for verification of hominid status for purposes of spam blocking -- the kind you find on comment pages and so forth -- were usually just smears of random consonants.

But a while ago they started sounding like words -- usually the kinds of words you'd see used in really bad fantasy or science fiction novels, the kinds that come with a map and a glossary.

When I mentioned this over on Glendon Mellow's site he called me on it and said I had to write that book. God help me, I think he may be right. So I've started saving the verification words in a document on my desktop.

I've got four words so far. Bactrin, Flediton, Plogu, and Pulas. See what I mean?

This can't possibly lead anywhere good. And it's not like I need another project -- but there are times when something reaches out and beckons to you irresistably. God only knows I read enough of the bad old stuff in my youth -- I've always loved pulp fiction and as a youngster I wasn't what you'd call discriminating.

This could be the start of something terrible.

Speaking of repulsive messes, I had one of the worst meals of my life today.

I cook. I'm a good cook. My food tastes better than what you can get in most restaurants. My grandaughter won't eat eggs unless I make them, when my sister was married she asked me to make stuffed mushrooms even though the event was catered. The caterers ate almost all of them before they got set out for the guests. My brother-in-law has been known to call me the day after he's eaten one of my meals and try to talk me into going into the restaurant business.

So today when I was taken out to lunch at Applebee's it was, quite literally, the first bad food I've eaten in years.

I mean, I had forgotten what bad food was like!

It's going to take me a long time to forget this.

The missus has a broker. Her old broker would send her chocolates and champagne every year. Her new broker just sent her a twenty-five dollar Applebee's card. When we walked in the door there was a sign on the outside of the building that said that the purchase of one of those twenty-five dollar cards would get you a bonus five-dollar card. Which figures.

Jesus, it was disgusting. I knew I was in for a disaster but I'd hoped it would be like eating a sack of chips -- you don't feel good about yourself but you keep eating it for the taste. Nasty, regretable, and yet oddly pleasing.

There was no pleasure. There was no taste, aside from the buffalo wings, which were actually frozen chicken nuggets bathed in this sauce... plastic? Cigarette butts? There was a harsh chemical tang to the red-orange glutinous paste that clung to the horrid little wads of breading and the look on the missus's face when she took a bite of one justified the entire meal for me.

The midget bacon cheeseburgers were utterly without flavor of any kind. No onions, no mustard or mayo. No flavor to the bacon. How do you get bacon with no flavor?

The side salad came with stale croutons and a huge mound of cheese and more of the soul-free bacon. The whole thing was assembled as if the people working in the kitchen hated food. When they were kids they saw food kill their dad and they've been seeking vengeance ever since. Or something. You couldn't get food that bad without a motive! And a can opener. I swear, the lettuce was from a can. Every dish was assembled from packaged processed foods. It wasn't a meal, it was a fucking industrial byproduct.

The idea that we were surrounded by people who had come here expecting a good meal was depressing. The idea that they thought they'd been served one was appalling. Partway through the meal I whispered to the missus and granddaughter, "Hey, do you think our waiter would eat out at a place like this?"


It doesn't matter how many Rachel Ray recipes they put on the back of Triscuit boxes, it doesn't matter how much truffle oil they have at Costco. If a restaurant like Applebee's is flourishing in America then our national palate is a shame, a sham, and a disgrace.

Time to slowly sip a quart of water and reflect on tomorrow's lunch -- which, with luck, will be at Bo McSwine's barbecue. Brisket, blues, and Belgian ale will wash the last pasty oligineous taint of Applebee's from my mouth and restore my parched and weary soul. And if it ain't at Bo's, it'll be at a decent burger joint, Al's Big Burger or The Red Onion.

Please, oh please let it come to pass.


Rein said...

Wow... that was... just sad.
Despite the bad food review, I find the name Appleby's really cute (but not as much as I love Chuck E. Cheese):p

But I got quite interested in those stuffed mushrooms though. :p

Sean Craven said...

Actually it wasn't a sad experience -- it was hilarious. I was smirking and giggling throughout the meal and when I mentioned that I might write about it on my blog, my granddaughter told me I should make sure to say that both she and her brother --

-- left some of their fries behind. "When kids don't finish their fries that's a bad meal."

As for the mushrooms. I'm not a recipe cook (I read 'em for inspiration but I cook by smell, taste, and eye) but this is something to work from.

Take garlic, parsley (I strongly prefer Italian flat-leafed parsley), salt, pepper, lemon juice, and butter and cream them together -- the end result should be a highly seasoned tart mixture with some of the lemon juice still loose in the bowl.

Then take your mushrooms, take the stems out, and put some butter into the hollows. I usually use crimini mushrooms, the little brown button mushrooms, and fill the entire hollow. If you were using shitakes or Portobellos or other flatter mushrooms you'd use only as much of the butter as you'd want to eat when they're done.

Then put them into a baking pan, put them in the oven at 350 degrees, and bake them until the butter is bubbling and the mushrooms are cooked.

As a cook's treat, get a slice of nice bread and use it to mop up the buttery brown juices in the bottom of the pan. Mmmm.

I've been thinking about putting a few breadcrumbs into the mushrooms along with the butter. We'll see how that works.

Rein said...

That sounds easy enough. I might give it a try, and yeah, I guess this'd work great with my ham pasta. So thanks for the recipe!

Merry Christmas Sean! :D

Zach said...

Aside from the food, which I also find awful, it's a certain cross-section of the population that goes to Applebee's. These are the people who can't afford Chili's and think that TGIF is too fancy. The people who skip the Best Buy ad in the Sunday paper and go straight for the Wal-Mart one.
I fear these people, and they eat at Applebee's.

Sean Craven said...

Ah -- so we're talking about the folks putting the low into lowest common denominator. Gotcha.

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