June 28, 2016

Driving in New York, and other cries for help

A giant roadtrip is an awesome thing. I highly recommend it to everyone. Even as I'm writing this, I'm engaged in a classic roadtrip activity, namely desperately trying to wait out a storm, and hoping that when it's over there's at least one road left that's not flooded. Apparently Texas isn't great at water drainage. But that's ok. On a cross-country trip you get to learn the little quirks of driving in each state and/or major metropolitan area (and as we'll talk about later, that's not Texas's worst problem). For instance, in Boston, the average driveway is about as wide as a standard-issue chihuahua (a breed of dog not commonly acclaimed for its width). Also, every street is a "one way" street, and as a special fun experience for visitors, they hide the signs indicating this behind traditional Boston foliage. 

Other, more tourism driven places, such as Manhattan, take the wise precaution of never allowing visitors to leave. Faced with the strategic onslaught of poorly paved roads, unyielding pedestrian traffic, and 14 dollar tolls to go anywhere including the bathroom, most tourists visiting Manhattan abandon their cars and former lives to become street performers who the native New Yorkers, in accordance with the ancient scroll of New Yorker etiquette, will spit on. 

Another hard-learned lesson of road tripping is that states are getting way too friendly with their nonsensical electronic toll systems. In various states, these are usually called something like "ez-pass," or "i-pass." Normally, this isn't an issue. If you have the electronic pass, you enter that lane. Otherwise you enter the cash lane. Some states, however, such as Virginia (The Trumped Up Speeding Ticket State), have a fun new innovation where they don't allow cash payments. That's right, the only way to avoid breaking the law in Virginia is not only to buy a dumb piece of plastic that's worthless unless you ever travel back through their dumb state, but to have known about that policy ahead of time. I frankly don't know who Virginia thinks they're fooling with this one. Everybody knows that there's only one good reason to go to Virginia, and that's to tour the distillery that's in te town George Washington's family lived in. 

But at least Virginia will do you the courtesy of tracking you down like a wild animal and sending you a bill if you don't e-pay one of their ludicrous tolls. Which is more than can be said about Texas (the Suprise Torrential Storm State). If their ludicrous road signs can be believed, Texas has no fewer than 3 electronic toll devices they use. Some tolls take all 3, some only take one form. But the unifying factor is that none of them take cash, and they specifically mention that they won't send you a bill. For the life of me, the only reason I can think of for this specific idiotic confluence of dumb policies is so that the Texas state police can engage in crazed Dukes of Hazzard style car chases. And if that's what they want, well I'm happy to oblige. Maybe they figure that me and Texas have some unfinished business. Maybe they figure right. 

June 20, 2016

Road Food

My road trip is continuing this week! And, in the tradition of road trips everywhere, at least one person is forever lost, and at least one person has VD. Also, I've gotten intimately familiar with road food. The key to good road food is to trick yourself into thinking you're being in any way healthy. This, of course, is not the case, because you're eating garbage out of an increasingly dubious cooler, combined with a healthy dose of fast food. But that's not important. What's important is being able to just barely convince yourself that you're totally keeping nutrition in mind, as you actively eat an entire party-size bag of chips between Omaha and Des Moines. It's all about research, dedication, and classifying twizzlers as "a starch."

This right there? That's protein and good hydration. That's a responsible meal. Also, you'll notice, the label is missing from the peanut butter. That's because of another classic road trip tradition: water from the cooler getting in everything, without giving a care about any precautions you take. "Go ahead! Double bag everything. Triple bag it. I'll still get in there, and I'll make you question your sanity along the way!" This is the motto of cooler water. It's not to be trifled with. 

Occasionally in your travels you'll stumble across some cheap, greasy takeout. Obviously you're gonna eat it, but you might make the rookie mistake of feeling guilty about that. And why would you? You've got vegetables and meat, full of valuable vitamins and nutrients. Probably! And the grease means your digestive tract will be well lubricated. Which has the fun bonus of being both untrue, and super gross. Let's see a salad do that!

So, as it becomes increasingly clear that I'm going to die on this trip, probably from scurvy, some might ask "why?" Why do I choose to continue onward, into the face of danger and adventure, despite the very real risk that I might get a Hollywood movie made about my life? Boredom is one good answer. The need to return my rental car is another, followed closely by the desire to see their faces when they realize how many miles I put on this car. But, like most Americans, I'm motivated by a deeper, more primal desire. The desire to see a Canadian biker gang politely wait their turn in line at a rest-stop-market. Which I totally did. The view along the way didn't hurt either. 

June 14, 2016

Road trip!

In the spirit of Jack Kerouac, Hunter S. Thompson, and many other people whose works we, as a nation (The USA), have decided to collectively pretend we've read and enjoyed, I'm embarking on a journey. It's just gonna be me and the open road. Plus some of my possessions, because the open road can get chilly at night. Also a car, because passing cars rarely slow down to swerve around pedestrians on the highways of this nation. Also beer, because I'm gonna have to stop for the night eventually, and what am I gonna do? Just look out a bunch of cactus fields and tumbleweeds? Sober? That's a sucker's bet if I've ever heard one. But aside from that, just me and sweet lady highway. With no responsibilities! Except for the wedding I have to be at in 6 days on the opposite coast. 

1 cooler
2 lb assorted deli meats
2 lb various cheeses
2-4 Yogurts
1 loaf bread
1 case of individual bottled water
1 12-pack of sugary carbonated beverages (If you're a purist, this will be "Mr. Pibb" brand. This can be hard to track down since they've long been out of business, but leading experts still maintain that using other beverages will "curse the donkey crap out of your roadtrip."
Approximately 173 ziplock bags
Ice. All of the ice. 

When constructing a roadtrip cooler, it's important to plan ahead. Some historians say that if Gandhi had planned out his cooler ahead of time, he wouldn't have had to starve himself later on in his travels. Because at some point your ice is gonna melt, and you'll need to spend the traditional 8 hours draining the excess water out of it into a motel sink before refilling it (The coolerwith even more ice. By this point you want your more replaceable items like yogurt and bread to be used up. You can restock those pretty much anywhere. But if you're stuck in some small town in Texas (The "Vast Expanse of Nothingness" Statewhere there are 4 buildings, and 2 of them are churches, it might be hard to come by some good meats or cheeses.

So the bottom layer is gonna be said meat and cheese, encrusted in ziplock bags. Then cover them entirely in ice. If you're still 100% sure you ever had meat and cheese to begin with, you need more ice. Next you're gonna cram as many assorted beverages in there as possible (Protip: if you've elected to cool down your beer, don't get pulled over. It doesn't matter how closed and sealed your beer is, the police will not be happy. This is also likely true without the beer, but don't rub it in. Don't be that guy.). Again, cover with an avalanche of ice. Now add in your bread and yogurt and miscellaneous sundry items. Sprinkle the top with some more ice and you're all set! Now just close the cooler! Or try to. Because it never closes on the first try, and now you have to play "Sophie's Choice" and decide what you're taking out, and how deep you're willing to shove your hand into the icy depths to get at it. Good luck! Maybe you'll drive past a hospital to get that frostbite looked at. As for me, I'm off. I might say hi again from the road along my way! I might not! It kind of depends on whether I can get an HD picture going on these cactus fields. 

June 7, 2016

Broccoli Cheese Casserole

Oh, broccoli, cover up your shame. 
Broccoli is delicious. That's a simple fact. The problem is, that broccoli is also healthy. People go out of their way to tell you this. You'll just be out enjoying some broccoli at a meal, on a stroll in the park, or while taking in a spot of opium, and somebody will come at you running their mouths about antioxidants and vitamins and supplements. It's pretty much a nightmare from which the only escape is cutting off your own arm with a rusty knife. Clearly a solution was needed. So by cleverly adding butter, cream, and cheese, I've turned it into something that the roving bands of health nuts won't start an uncomfortable conversation with you about while you're in line at the bank. Sure, we could give up broccoli and just eat other things. But I vaguely remember saying like a minute ago that it's delicious. And besides, everybody knows that impulse control is for foppish dandies, suckers and communists.


20 oz. Broccoli (Usually I like working with fresh ingredients because they ususally taste better and have better texture, but in an application like this you could probably get away with using the frozen stuff and get pretty good results.)
1 cup Sour Cream
1 Standard-Issue Onion
2 cloves Garlic
1/2 cup Seasoned Breadcrumbs
3 TBSP Butter
8 oz. Cheddar Cheese
3 oz. Parmesan Cheese 
3 Eggs

If you're using fresh broccoli, you're gonna start slightly differently than if you're using the frozen stuff. If you're using fresh broccoli you're gonna need to cut it up and boil/steam it. (Don't worry, you can totally learn how to do that in this old post of mine! Now you can read even more. Hasn't today just been the best?) If you're using the frozen broccoli, forget to let it defrost before making this recipe, and then hastily defrost it in the microwave while you're (SPOILER ALERT) chopping and sautéing your onion. Next, you're gonna slice up your onion, melt your butter over some medium heat, and sauté that sucker for 5 minutes along with an average-sized human pinch of salt. During this time, chop your garlic into tiny little pieces of its former self. Once the onions are soft and have started to pick up a little color, add in your broccoli and garlic, along with another, smaller pinch of salt. Like the pinch that a child, or a dog that mutated a thumb might have. Cook that nonsense for about 2 minutes, until all your flavors start to meld, and it smells like happiness. Turn the heat off, and let that mess cool down to room temperature.

Here lies broccoli, killed by deliciousness. As we eat his tasty
corpse, let us think of the good times. He'd want it that way.
Now it's time for the fun part, and by "fun" I mean "fattening." Which is usually pretty fun. So it all works out. The point is, take your eggs, breadcrumbs, sour cream, and cheddar cheese, and add them in to your broccoli mix, to form a cheesy broccoli goop. Or "ooze", if you want to be scientific. Spread that gunk out into a pan, and form an even layer. Top it of with your parmesan cheese, and then shove that sucker in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. Then turn the heat up to 400 degrees and cook it for another 10 minutes to make sure you burn away all of the healthiness, leaving a bubbly layer of deliciousness. Wait for it to cool slightly before shoving your face in the entire pan and gobbling the goodness down. If you're a fancyboy or a communist (This link just leads right back here, because that was a callback to the first paragraph of THIS post. Enjoy). The rest of you, enjoy your pretty serious burns all up in your face and throat. Totally worth it.