The SamuraiMarine

Thoughts, Philosophy, Life and Love

Category: Food and Drink

Instant Tea, just add…

Recently I became infected with Valley Fever for the second time in my life.  Valley Fever, for those of you that do not live in the San Joaquin valley, is also know by it’s less  aesthetically pleasing name of coccidioidomycosis.   Yes, if you are at a party, and you want to impress the people you are there with, say coccidioidomycosis a couple times might make you sound impressive, but that is about where it stops.  Especially when you explain what it is.

Getting back to the point.

The last time I contracted this illness was way back in 1977, During the Great Central Valley Dust Storm.  There is not too much I recall about the time, except that I came home, and after lunch I went to take a nap.  The next thing I know it was several weeks later (six to be exact) and I was hooked to an IV.

I was told later that each time you get Valley Fever, it is progressively worse than the time before.  So I lived most of my lift, to date, with a real fear of what could happen if I ever got it again.

At this point, I am thinking that three out of five of you are asking yourself…  What the heck does this have to do with the title of this post.  This is nothing like tea, instant or not.  But you would be wrong, you see, there is a connection to Tea and to the point I am meandering my way to, and that is that because I have contracted Valley Fever again, I am trying to live healthier.

Well… not JUST the Valley Fever… You might say that the little beastie growing in my wife’s tummy is also a major factor as well.  But together they make up the whole reason.

So… as I have been working on this, I have been drinking lots of water, to the tune of four or five small bottles of it a day, and one thing I have to say about water is that it is a boring drink.  It does not do anything to excite the taste buds or thrill the pallet.  People, at least many of the ones I know, do not see a glass of water and say… “Oooh, delicious!  A Glass of water!”

Quenching? Yes.  Life sustaing?  certainly! The best thing to drink when you are thirsty? Of course?  A tasty gourmet delicacy?  Hardly.  So I have starting trying this little things that my wife uses all the time.  They are little instant packets that you empty into a bottle of water and PRESTO… you have <Name your drink here>. You have a large variety to chose from, Peach, Raspberry, Lemonade, Fruit punch, Ginseng, etc…  this list goes on ad-nauseum.

There are certain flavors that I have tried that I was pretty sure from the start I would not like.  Flavors like, oh… anything that does not taste like simple, plain, ordinary, bland, Black iced tea with no sweetener in it.  The kind you get at almost any restaurant.  Everything else has too much “Froo Froo” to it.  But I am brave… so I tried the Peach.  After the first couple sips, I decided that the rest would be great for watering the plant in the office.  The plant later died… and it was plastic.

I ventured forth and tried a few more over the next few days, and just when I was getting to the point that I thought that plain water tasted pretter darned good, I found it.  Fruit Punch.  This was actually really good and reminded me of those simpler days of my childhood when you could buy the bottle of Hawaiian Punch mix that was in the jar, that think sweet liquid that you were supposed to only put one tablespoon into a glass of water, yet any kid that had access to would put two or five in and stir it up, then proceed on a three hour, sugar-induced rampage that usually involved torturing any adult within two miles with your insanity.

Yes… I had found my artificial nirvana.  I say artificial because this little packets are sugar free, so there is no sugar induced high that follows the drinking.  There is only that taste and the memories.

After all is said and done, I found three that I like and they would be Fruit Punch, Lemonade and Arizona Ginseng Tea.  The Ginseng tea took a little longer to get to like, but I do enjoy it and it certainly beats straight water any day of the week.  I am sure that as time goes on, I might find more that I like, so I will keep trying them as I see new ones come out.  Who knows, maybe these will eventually break my addiction to sodas.

One can dream.

My Bread Machine and me.

You know.  When the automatic bread makers first came out, I was one of their biggest opponents.

“You’ll never catch me using one of those infernal beasts”, you would hear me say, as I donned my white fedora and strode out of the room with my dignity firmly in hand.

Ok…  so the imagery is a little wrong and as for dignity… well…

So a few years ago I was walking through my 3rd favorite place to shop, which is the Goodwill Store, and there… sitting on the shelf… with this eerie glow and pale halo around it is a Oster Bread Machine.  Almost brand new with little or no damage or apparent use to it at all.

So I take a look at it.  The price label says $10, so I ask a clerk about the price.  This is something that you do not want to do in a Goodwill or Salvation Army store.  While I appreciate the work that they do, the people that work the floor tend to be either rude or clueless.

Twenty minutes after I have asked, and with no one seemingly able to find anyone who knows anything about the pricing of any of their products, I just grab it and walk to the front counter, set my discovery down and pay for it.  I figure that if nothing else, I can always find a use for the parts if it does not survive the first effort to make a loaf of bread.

That evening I show my find to my wife, who looks it over and at me in much the same way that she would have were our cat to bring in a dead bird and offer it to her.  She scoffs at it and makes some sounds that while they may have been dismissive, the “Guy” portion of my brain incorrectly translates them into “Go ahead honey… make us a loaf.’

So I do…  again and again and again… over the next few nights, I made several loafs of bread.  All of it was quite good and the process was pretty easy.  So in a short period of time, I became a Bread Machine convert.

Now, to be clear.  I do know how to make a loaf of bread without the machine.  This was something that my mother taught me years ago as a child.  You see… that was the first battery of things that I was taught… cooking.  My wife never lets me forget that she is very happy to have a husband that knows how to and enjoys cooking.  The only part that I have never enjoyed about making bread, and I know that there has to be several of you out there that agree, is the kneeding process.

I know that there are people out there that swear by kneading a loaf of bread on a regular basis.  Hell, I would be willing to bet that half the women in France and Italy during the second world war could have knocked most of the Nazis on their asses with the biceps and pecs that they had built up from years of kneading bread dough.  It might still be the same way today, I could not tell you for certain.  Though I AM certain that I will get at least one person complaining about my ethnic remark above.

There is, however, something kind of neat about having this machine in the house.  I use it often… but not always to bake bread.  Many times, these days, I will use it solely for the purpose of KNEADING the bread for me.  Then, when the dough is ready, I will turn it out into a pan and bake it.  Presto… Bread.

So I do enjoy making bread with this thing… it is fun.  This thing make bread making so fun and easy that were I to also start handing out fishes… well… never mind, that joke might cause a whole new crap storm for me.

Good night.

What is the point?

OK…  I do still go to McDonald’s from time to time, so you will have to excuse me for a moment while I rant about a recent decision that they, McDonald’s, has made.

I have to admit that I do like their “McSkillet” breakfast burrito and a extra large diet coke for a breakfast option, and the price really is not that bad either.  But recently there has been some changes afoot at the old McD that kinda leaves me scratching my head, and that is what they have done with their drinks.

A few weeks ago I stopped in my local McD and ordered my usual breakfast, only to be told that they had recently decided to stop carrying the extra large drink size.

This intrigued me, so I asked why they decided to do this.

The young lady at the store I always go to said that this was part of McDonald’s effort to help people start eating more sensibly.  TO help people start watching their portions and live healthier.

OK… so while the above is not a direct quote, I will attest to the fact that it was pretty much right on with what she told me, and I even thought at the time that it sounded like she was reading from a prepared statement, so I feel that McD had prepared their employs for such a question.  But I doubt she was prepared for the next questions I asked her.

1.   If that is the case, is McD also reducing the size of their burgers?

2.   Are they switching to a lower calorie mix for their ice cream and pies?

3.  Are they offering more non-beef options like more chicken, fish and/or vegetarian patties?

All of the above was answered with a couple laughs and several “No”s.  It was times like this when I am glad that I know a few of the people at the McDonald’s that I go to on a regular basis.  Otherwise I probably would have been asked to leave shortly after the second question.

So… the question that I have for McDonald’s, that only they, at the corporate level, appear to be able to answer, is Why?  I know that McDonald’s had a ongoing issue with trying to please the health conscious masses with eliminating the Super-Size meals and the drinks, then bringing the drinks back, and things like that.  You can find this info on the net almost any time you do a serious search for it.

But why are you getting rid of the extra large drinks, using the excuse that you are trying to be health conscious, when you are not doing anything about the other items on your menu that are more at guilty of being unhealthy short of pulling super-size meals from some markets?

Why are you now selling “Sweet tea” at the same time that you are eliminating the extra large cups?

If you are making ALL drink sizes $1.00, then why bother having smaller drink sizes at all?  Are there really people out there that will go in, see the new pricing and say, “Aw darn it, I am gonna get the small!  Screw conformity!”

I guess the point that I am getting to is this.  If you are going to change something in your menu in an effort to be more healthy, then there are many items you can change that make more sense than eliminating the extra large cup size from your menu.

Why are farts funny?

Tonight I decided that, since my stomach was still not quite at 100% since this bout with what I can only assume was a stomach flu, I would go to the Subway Sandwich shop here by my home.  Not a long drive and the fresh air… well… as fresh as Bakersfield can grant, would do me some good.

Upon entering and subsequently waiting in line behind the woman who probably single handedly inspired Carol from a slightly demonic version Brady Bunch, whose six children might have been models for  “Chucky” and whose ability to control them was slightly akin to Captain Binghamton’s ability to control Lt. Mchale  (Yes… I know most of these analogies are lost on anyone younger than thirty…)  Her and her kin were waiting for their food to be made when “IT” happened.  During one of the critical moments of public sandwich-making when children are present, happened.  The sandwich guy’s Mayo jar ran out.

Anyone who has been in a Subway when this happens, knows what that means.  Yes… the Mayo jar made a rather loud sputtering sound.

It was at this time that one of the kids happily announced to no one in specific and everyone in general that… “The sandwich guy farted!”

This had the effect of turning the already noisy group of children into a now laughing group of children sounding something slightly similar to what Pee Wee’s playhouse might sound like on laughing gas… oh… never mind.

To make matters worse, the now very self-conscious sandwich guy made the sound three more times… in the ever-efficient effort to get every last drop of the mayo out of the jar.  This, in turn, evoked a chorus of laughs and giggles… now not just from the children, but also from the few other adults that were there as well.

Yes… even me,  mister stoic… the gruff, 40 something former Marine, started to smile at this point.  For me, however, I think I was smiling more at the way the sandwich guy was looking at the children.  With that fake smile, hiding the sudden desire to start practicing Hannibal Lecter’s craft in the kitchen, beginning with the little starting lineup of the might munchkin football league that he had in his dining room.  All he was missing was the quiet time, fava beans and nice Chianti.

It was about this time that he, the sandwich guy, announced that he had to go get more Mayo, then went to the back.  Either to actually GET mayo, or to contemplate his new career as a serial murderer and cannibal.   This I do not know, as the sandwich gal who was working with him took over and finished making the sandwiches for them and then, myself.

The woman and her small restaurant assault team went off valiantly to ransack the Domino’s pizza next door.

I saw no further sign of the sandwich guy that night… I hope the rest of his evening went better, and that it did not end with him having his partner for dinner with beans and wine.


Note to the reader… some of the events may have been embelished for the entertainment of the reader.

I aint as good as I once was…

Toby Keith is a true wordsmith, but unfortunately for me, I found out this last week exactly how true his words are.

As you may have read in my last post, I celebrated my fortieth birthday.  To help me celebrate, a couple friends took me to a place called the “Tilted Kilt”, an establishment known for their drinks and their scantily clad waitresses.  Both of which I will personally attest to the drinks and the attire.

When we arrived, we were seated in the section that was waited by a very nice girl named Monique.  I started with a beer and an appetizer…  and that, so they say, was the beginning of the end.

I learned that night, that I cannot drink or party the way I did, say, twenty years ago.  In fact, after my evening was complete, I was glad that I did not drive… and I was glad that the guest bathroom was so close to the main entrance to my house.  To give you an idea of how bad it was, here is a list of the drinks that I had that evening, in no particular order.

1.  Four – Blue Moon Ales

2.  One – Red-Headed Slut (the drink, as far as I know.)

3.  Two – Scottish Orgasms

4.  One – Kamakazi

There was a time, many years ago, when I could walk into a bar, or a friends house and drink with the best of them.  I was a regular at such places like “John Bryant’s” or “Woody’s”, here in Bakersfield.  I can recall putting away as many as twelve beers and nine Kamikaze’s in one evening and waking up the next morning with little or no hang over.

When I made it home after this night of drinking, I was a mess.  My wife was the best, more than willing to clean up the mess I made while praying to Ralph at the porcelain throne.  Taking a moment or two to laugh at me in my moment of suffering and bring me my water and napkins when I needed them.

In the end, it took me a full day to recover and several glasses of water and a hand full of aspirin.

No… I am certainly not what I once was… but you know, who is?

Have I learned my lesson?  Probably not…

Will I do it again?  I will, of course, say no.  But in ten years, who is to say.  You only turn fifty once.

The Tilted Kilt is a great place to hang out and I plan to go there from time to time.

One thing I did learn from this experience is that I need to go hang out at places like this more often.  Not to get drunk, but just to have fun and hang out.

Happy drinking and happy living, all!

An Addiction Divine

What is your addiction??

There once was a time when coffee was old hat. It is what your mother and father drank at the morning breakfast table, or after dinner.

These days, with the help of such storefronts as Starbucks, Supreme Bean and the like, coffee is as popular as soda and tea. It is not just the drink of choice for adults anymore either, you see all sorta of people ordering drinks there from all ages.

One occasion that stands out for me is when I was in Monterey on business, I went to a Starbucks… the one in the Del Monte Center, for those of you that know the area, and I saw a kid… maybe about 10 or 12 years old, and order a Cafe Mocha with an extra shot. This floored me… I was not aware that coffee drinks like this were that popular with kids. So… being the kind of guy I am… I went and asked the “Barista” about this. She told me that there are several kids that come in.

What do you think? Should kids be allowed to order coffee drinks? I mean, when I was a kid, I would never have considered ordering a coffee. I had tasted it once, but at the time I thought it was disgusting. Yet my father and mother could always be found with a cup of coffee and a cigarette after dinner and pretty much the same for breakfast… but I did not care for coffee at all… that is until I joined the Marine Corps. In addition to various other things, they trained me to like Coffee. I especially enjoyed the coffee at the end of the day, when the big urn had been sitting all day and that last little bit of coffee was in the bottom of the urn… you had to tilt the urn a little to get that last little bit out. Oooh Yeah!

Me? When I order my coffee at Starbucks, I ordered something called the Triple Red-eye… This is basically a very strong coffee and three shots of espresso. Let me put an amendment to that… I DID order this until just recently when my doctor politely told me to lay off the coffee… especially after a blood pressure of 140/110. So these days I am ordering decaf… and I am almost through the withdrawals.

So, again, what is your take on children being allowed to order these coffee drinks, and what do YOU order when you order coffee?

In-N-Out Burgers

Hamburgers and Cheeseburgers, fries and drinks.

That’s all…

Anyone that is familiar with the In-N-Out burger chain, will sympathize with me on this. This is a company that is one of those companies that has not bent itself over to add new things to the menu and try to cater to all tastes and all people.

I go there on a regular basis, and I am always impressed with the amount of business they get versus the competition. Add to this the fact that I have never been treated rudely in one, and I have never heard people speak badly of them as a while, either.

One of the In-N-Out locations in my town is located right across the street from a Burger King, and what strikes me as the most impressive aspect to this store, and a true statement to the quality of the food there, is that almost all the time, the In-N-Out (to save time I will refer to them as INO) has a line in the drive through going all the way around the building, with wait times ranging from a few minute to upward of ten minutes… Yet people are willing to wait. Meanwhile, across the street at the Burger King, there is rarely more than two cars in their driveway, and the dining area is rarely even half full. I wonder, too, if the only reason that people are in there is only because they could not wait for the line at INO. Either way, this is still a big complement to the INO.

While in any INO, if you look carefully, you may see a sign in the back that tells you an important piece of information. You will see the number of burgers that they make in a day, and in a month. If I had any suggestion to the family that still runs INO, it would be to put that sign out where everyone can see it. The numbers, while I do not recall them now, are astounding. I simply could not believe that they were right. I asked an employee about them once, and he smiled and said something like; ‘you’re not really supposed to see that, but yes.’ Amazing. If anyone from INO happens to read this BLOG, please consider putting that sign in an easier to see place. It will not hurt your business.

In recent news, however, it looks as though there is some trouble in the INO family that may have long term affects on the company. There seems to be a rift forming in the relationship between the remaining heir and the board of directors. I do hope that throughout this ordeal, these people remember who the real jury is in this case, and make sure not to alienate us, the loyal and dedicated dining public. If something were to happen to the chain, then we would certainly lose a great place to eat. What is almost worse than the idea of them closing, is the possibility that they may go public, or sell out. These would both be a tragedy.

Traveling and Restaurants… a Rant

When I travel, and my company does have me travel a bit, I make it a point to be adventurous.

When I get to my hotel, I look for a restaurant… preferrably one that I have never been to before, or one that I enjoy, but rarely get to enjoy. Am I the only one that thinks it is silly to go out of town and eat at the same restaurant that you have in your own home town? I mean granted, there are times that I have been in a hurry, and not wanted to look for a place to eat, so I would hit fast food or the like, but a majority of the time I would make the effort to find someplace different.

Right now I am limited, for as I write this article I am doing the “Low Carb” thing to get my weight down in preparation for a pending knee surgery… in other words my options are limited. But normally when I visit a town, and it does not matter how often I get to visit that town, I pretty much ignore places to eat that I frequent in my Home town. I even go so far as looking up a list of good places to eat around the hotel I will be staying at before I get there. Makes life interesting.

Do not get me wrong, there is a certain autistic comfort in going to the same places all the time. Sorta like letting yourself know that everything is “right” in the world as long as you see a Denny’s, Roadhouse Grill, Carrows or Outback someplace. But people… you gotta live a little… be adventurous. By the simple nature of who we are, it is OK. Humans THRIVE on diversity, not monotony. How many Cob Salads from Marie Calendar’s can a person eat? Are we on a quest? Somewhere is there a talley center? “Well… Paul has eaten a Cob Salad from every one of our locations in Southern California, better send him that award now.” Yeah… Right.

In short… Next time you are out of town, look for some place to eat that you have never been to before, or maybe have never even HEARD of before. Personally I would even say look for the “Hole in the Wall” places… my experience tells me that, more often than not, they are the best and most rewarding meals to be had.

That is just my input for tonight… do with it what you will, nothing more nothing less.

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