Popcorn

I’ve been having a loop of thoughts since Neptune requested some popcorn as a snack the other day.

Growing up, my parents had one of those really loud air popcorn makers. You know, the ones with the little plastic tray on top that melts the butter? With the spinning, glorified hair dryer part that shoots popped kernels into the bowl with hot air? It was beige and brown (like everything in the 80’s). Anyhow, that was fun. My parents also had a microwave but that was back when you had to cover your uterus while they were in operation; basically pre-dating microwaveable popcorn altogether.

Now I’m faced with the creation of popcorn for Neptune. We don’t have a microwave, so sometimes we get Jiffy Pop, but it seems like it is something we could do on our own. Can we? Armed with some hot oil and a pot and an inexpensive bag of dried corn kernels? It sounds almost dangerous, archaic even, to actually cook popcorn on the stove.

But the thread of popcorn got me to thinking about the song, Popcorn (click here to refresh your memory). Actually, Popcorn-Song.com has an exhaustive history of the song. If you are too young to remember how this track infiltrated the 80’s, then think about the effect that the Hamster Dance Song had on the early 00’s. You can find an equally exhaustive history here, though it’s almost too much information to bear.

Best Veggie Burger Revisited

I just remembered that I had omitted Ontario’s Best Veggie Burger: Weber’s on highway 11. This would be the close second to the Crown Burger I mentioned in my Veggie Burger Blog. When you go to Weber’s you have to get fries and a milkshake, too. They cook the garden patties on a charcoal grill and if you live in the province of Ontario and you’ve never been to Weber’s then you should be ashamed of yourself. An interesting tidbit about Weber’s is that they had to build a pedestrian overpass because too many people were getting hit by cars trying to cross the highway to get their burgers. That’s how good they are.

Best Veggie Burger

On our travels, we’ve had the pleasure (and excruciating pain) of discovering food the world over. When on tour, Murray and I feel a constant struggle to find vegetarian food that’s not: 1) coated in melted cheese, and 2) disgusting. There have been some triumphs (Excellent Sushi in Vancouver, BC, incredible curry soup and tea that tasted like the Earth at the airport in Kuala Lumpur, Flat Whites with Johnny in Sydney, AUS), acceptable standards (Pret-A-Manger, Pizza Express in the UK), and surprising failures (revolting vegetarian restaurant in Bilbao, Spain).

The most universal quest, however, is the eternal search for the ultimate veggie burger. While in a pinch, you won’t be wronged by a veggie burger with cheese from Harvey’s (Murray asks for BBQ sauce on his), you can definitely do better. So oftentimes Murray and I will find ourselves wandering strange, international places, looking for something our stomachs might rely on. We’ve been cheated far too many times by England’s afterhours kebab shops…our own naivety, I suppose.

The best veggie burger we’ve ever tasted caught us by surprise in, of all places, Salt Lake City, UT. I think it was called Crown Burger. They had their own “special sauce” that killed it. We both ate two garden burgers and even though we were so incredibly full we ordered a bunch and brought them back to the tour bus for everyone else to try. Oh, we had milkshakes and fries, too. We totally pigged out that time.

Montreal’s probably most renown veggie burger is the pinto burger from La Paryse. While strictly not a veggie burger but a bean burger, the combination of cheese and the nutty-beany taste of the patty kills. Aux Vivres has a pretty good tempeh burger, but I find it a little on the dry side…better to go for a sandwich on chapati. Mondo Fritz had a good veggie burger, but they recently closed down all of a sudden (due to the endless third-world war/construction zone Blvd. St. Laurent became over the summer?).

This journey is not over. The search continues.

My Parents

Being at the cottage, isolated and without TV in the country with my parents, evokes all the fear and self-loathing of David Sedaris’ autobiographical essays, or Jonathan Franzen’s “The Corrections.” Here are two brief but telling examples:

I noticed, sitting on a bathroom shelf a small sign of preparedness: my mom had brought a sewing kit. Contained in a small, clear plastic box were about a dozen colours of thread, some safety pins, a button, measuring tape and a tiny pair of scissors. It looked a right kit, prepared for any clothal failure. But one thing seemed to be missing: a sewing needle. I was so amazed by this fact, that I looked through the whole kit just to make sure, but it remained missing. So could someone please offer a possible use for a sewing kit without the tools required to sew?

Unless you are grilling a steak with fries, my dad is impossible to cook for. The things he likes are simple, he likes down home soul foods, and so cooking for him might seem easy. But there are several wildcards, the main one being that Murray and I are vegetarian. Next is the list of no-go foods (only out of preference, not dietary in any way): no cilantro, no eggplant, no cucumber, no garlic, no cream sauce, no ricotta, and the list continues. A single misstep could ellicit the reaction (that Murray got this week): “Its good but I don’t like it.”

Parents. They just don’t understand. Either that or Murray and I have become serious food snobs. Its probably a little bit of both.

Berlin & Munich

I pretend Germany doesn’t interest me, that there’s something too grotesque about the past; too complicated. We walked by the Polish Cultural centre, Murray asked if I wanted to go in and I declined: “I can’t, I’ll probably just start crying.” So Berlin, all its older buildings pockmarked and crumbling by WWII bullet marks and shrapnel. I emailed my friend Malcolm: “It’s like walking through Medal of Honour for PS2,” but actually it really made me choked up. Like on these very sidewalks, there was a battle, there was rubble and blood. A battle for my family, a gunfight for our future. I know, I know, there are still wars going on today, but, at risk of total selfishness, I admit that this is the only one that directly affected my family.

So our gig is at a former bunker or wine cellar, its original use we are not sure of, but either is feasible. During the show I noticed actual mortar from the domed brick ceiling had fallen onto my keyboard. Actual mortar. Like where does that ever happen, except in some semi-centennial, aged cavern?

This place is fucked but there is something I like about it. Also, at every show in this country, I swear there has been a couple making out every night. Now that’s special.

I had a dream about food. It’s reached that point in the tour, where I get insanely homesick, jealous of other people’s house plants. So I dreamt about food, I invented a recipe in my sleep. It goes like this: take an eggplant and scoop out all the guts but leave about 1cm of pulp next to the skin. Ok now take the pulp and cook it up with onions, garlic, rice and some sunflower seeds, mushrooms and parmesan or something like that. THEN get some green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces and blanched. Now fill the eggplant shell three-quarters of the way with the rice mixture, then top it with the green beans, then some shredded mozza cheese. Just a sprinkle. Then bake for like 30 minutes at 350C. Serve with fresh tomato sauce. Holy fuck that would be really good. I can’t wait to try making it when I get home.

Wow I’m such a loser. I finished typing this after our gig in Munich. We played in some building that is three hundred years older than I am.