Archive for February, 2010

I’ve Got a Bone to Pick With All You Makers of Delicious Ice Cream

February 23, 2010

Several years ago I decided to stop drinking alcohol. No one told me I needed to do it.  There was no intervention, no DUIs, no nothing. I just decided to do it on my own. No big deal. And I have only occasionally missed it. Every once in a while I will see someone enjoying a beer or a nice glass of wine and I will miss it a tiny bit, but just not enough to make me go back to it.

I have never liked to gamble. The main reason is simple. I hate to lose money. There is another reason. A gambling loss is a confirmation that I was wrong. If I didn’t believe I was right about a bet I was making, then I wouldn’t make it in the first place. If I lost that bet, it means I was wrong. I don’t like being wrong. Losing money and being proven wrong all at once is more than I can take. Therefore I don’t gamble.

There is one addiction that I have not been able to free myself from, however. Ice cream. I can’t walk down the ice cream aisle at my local Kroger without falling into a trance. There are so many temptations. I know why they tell former drug addicts to stay away from the people and places they used to go when they were using. The temptations are too strong.

When I was a kid there were two or three companies in Georgia that sold ice cream. In my recollection, there was Sealtest, Atlanta Dairies, and then there was the inevitable (and usually undesirable) store brand (A&P had Ann Page, Winn Dixie had Chek, and so on).

The choices of flavors at the grocery store were very limited. You had chocolate, vanilla, strawberry (yuck), neopolitan (which was really just these same three flavors combined in one box), and maybe one or two “adult” flavors like butter pecan or the “exotic” french vanilla. Then there was sherbet. Maybe orange, lime, and a couple of other flavors. That was IT.

If you wanted to get some more “daring and different” ice cream choices, you headed to Baskin-Robbins. In the city where I grew up, the Baskin-Robbins was way over on the other side of town, but it was easily worth the pilgrimage over there. The excitement would build on the car ride over, and then once you stepped inside it was borderline torturous. There, in front of you, were 31 different flavors of ice cream. My parents were usually generous enough to let my sisters and me pick two flavors each. But there was still the matter of choosing two out of the thirty-one options. Some were easy to eliminate. Anything with  nuts was out. Anything with coconut in it was out.  “Seasonal” flavors like “pumpkin pie” were out. But even after eliminating the easy ones, I would still be left with having to pick two out of twenty or so. Pure hell for a little kid. Eventually my father would make a loving comment like “pick something or you’re going to have to walk home” and I would blurt something out like “one scoop of chocolate chip and one scoop of bubble gum”. No doubt I was quite capable of combining flavors that would make virtually anyone wretch. But I didn’t care. I knew it might be a month before we made the trek back out to Baskin-Robbins, so by God I was going to get what I wanted without being worried about whether the server or my father or anyone else approved of my order. After all, I was the one eating it.

Then there was Dairy Queen. God only knows what they put in those machines that churned out that white chemically-produced substance, but who the hell cared. The servers made it look like some sort of frozen dream as they slowly twisted the concentric circles of goodness onto the cone. Then maybe you had it dipped into butterscotch or chocolate goo that would miraculously harden in a matter of seconds. In the summer you had to eat it strategically and quickly, or the whole thing would melt all over your hand and even onto the ground. God forbid you would get distracted or pushed because there was an outside chance the whole thing would topple onto the pavement. A savvy cone eater never let something like that happen, however. A wise consumer of DQ cones would sooner let a sibling be run over than to lose his cone due to failure to take due care to ensure every last cold and sticky bite was eaten.

Fast forward to today.

The ice cream section at my Kroger is probably as big as the entire frozen food section in the grocery stores where my mother shopped when I was a kid. Sure, you can still get chocolate and vanilla. But that is literally the tip of the ice cream berg. There are scads of brands and oodles of flavors. There is everything from store brands (and unlike when I was a kid, even the Krogers and Publixes of the world make some pretty doggone good ice cream) to deluxe brands like Ben and Jerry’s and Haagen Dazs.

And every maker has something incredible to tempt the ice cream addict. Edy’s, for instance, has seized on the national obsession with Girl Scout cookies and now makes ice cream with crushed up Thin Mints, Tagalongs, and Samoas (yuck–coconut) in them. Ben and Jerry’s has Cherry Garcia, New York Super Fudge Chunk, and Oatmeal Cookie Chunk.  There are ice creams with candy bars in them. Cookies. They have low-fat ice cream (why in the world would I eat high fat food with less fat in it?). There are tons of choices of sorbets (no longer would we ever refer to them as sherbets). Then let’s not forget the choices in ice cream bars, sandwiches, individual bite-sized frozen confections, and so on.

For an addict like me, it is truly impossible to resist.

From time to time I will sort of lock onto a personal favorite that I find so heavenly and so amazingly delicious, that I am convinced I could swear off every other temptation that was ever put before man, including women (well, maybe not women, but you understand what I mean).

For me, that personal favorite right now is Blue Bell Banana Pudding Ice Cream. First of all, I commend the people at Blue Bell for continuing to produce their product in a half-gallon carton. All of the other makers have started selling 1.5 quart cartons in an effort to keep their prices low. Smart consumers such as myself that want to know they will have ice cream in their freezers when the urge hits are not too keen on that development. Don’t take 1/4 of my ice cream away. I will pay more. Don’t rob from me. But I digress.

Banana Pudding Ice Cream. First of all, I am fairly sure that Blue Bell makes the highest fat content ice cream on the market. I have done no research to confirm this. But I am no fool. Fat makes things taste good. Blue Bell ice cream is wondrously good. Research project over. Second, if any of you has ever had homemade banana pudding made with real cream, fresh and ripe bananas, and Nilla Vanilla Wafers, then you have come close to Paradise. Now, imagine that dessert perfection being swirled into a combination of banana and vanilla ice cream (the extra high fat kind). Every scoop has big chunks of banana and wafer in it, along with swirls of whipped cream. It is almost indescribably good.

There are a few women that I would probably do just about anything to spend some time with. Uma Thurman. Grace Kelly. Audrey Hepburn. Maybe Gwyneth Paltrow. But if I am in the middle of a bowl of Blue Bell Banana Pudding? Get on down the road Uma. Wait outside for me, Gwyneth.

I would sooner give up comfortable shoes than I would give up my ice cream. Maybe indoor plumbing.

If some doctor forces to give up everything in this world that I ever loved, he had better think twice about telling me to give up my ice cream. I do love it so.

I’ve Got a Bone to Pick With People Who Aren’t Ready to Order

February 19, 2010

I knew it wouldn’t take me too long to stray from the world of sports.

Like everyone, I have a set of pet peeves. Things that get under my skin. Since I live in Atlanta, traffic-related peeves are plentiful (and probably the subject of at least one future column). There are scads of others. I probably have an inordinate desire for people to behave as I would like for them to behave. The world would be a better place, however, if they would. My way is usually a very good way.

One of my biggest peeves is people that have been standing in line in a fast-food or limited-service restaurant for some amount of time. Could be two or three minutes. Might only be 30 seconds. However long it has been, these people have had time to peruse the menu. If it’s a McDonald’s kind of place, one would think that they entered the restaurant (or even the drive-through) knowing what it is they want. I mean, come on. You know you came in craving a Big Mac. Just order the thing and move out of the way, buddy.

But even if it’s a place they’ve never been before, one would think they know enough about the general “theme” of the restaurant to have a good feel for what they want.

My new favorite limited-service restaurant is called El Pollo Loco. If you have an El Pollo Loco where you live and you haven’t yet tried it, I strongly encourage you to do so. They marinate their chicken in citrus and spices, then grill it. I have tried KFC’s new grilled chicken and I assure you that as good as it is, EPL’s chicken kicks its ass (and breast, and thigh, and so on). It’s indescribably good. I am not currently a spokesman for the chain, but I could be. They would sell more chicken if I were. That’s how strongly I feel about it.

At EPL they primarily sell chicken dinners. They also have salads, burritos, tacos, quesadillas, and some other items, but they are there to sell a lot of chicken. And they should be selling a lot of chicken because it’s just that good (or did I already mention that?).

Here’s the drill. You order a chicken meal. You get either a breast and wing or a thigh and leg as your “main course”. You are then asked if you would like a flour or corn tortilla with it (or you can also choose  nacho chips). Then you can choose two of about 10 sides. The sides are awesome. They have things like black beans, steamed veggies, green salad, corn on the cob, and others. Some very healthy. All awesome. Then you can either add a drink or not. That’s it.

Sounds fairly simple, right? Trust me. It ain’t. At least not for some people.

Whenever I go into my local EPL, I always pray that their is either no line or that the line I am in is populated with people that have both been there before and that know what they want to order. God forbid they should be there for the first time or that they should be indecisive, because if either of those things is true, we’re going to be there a while. A long while.

What in the hell is so hard about ordering from a place like this? It is not La Tour D’Argent, people. There are no specials that require a lengthy discussion between the waiter and the patrons or between the patrons themselves as they try to determine who will order fish and who will order steak so that they can get a little “surf and turf action” going. It’s fast  freaking food people!

But you can count on it. Get behind the EPL neophyte and be ready for an excruciating wait. First will come the question of “can I have a breast and a thigh even though they don’t come together on the menu” (I believe the answer is yes, with a small upcharge off the lesser of the two menu costs). Then there will be something like “are your flour tortillas made with lard?”. “Are they fresh?” Then it’s on to the sides. “What vegetables come in your steamed veggies?” “What kind of container do you put the sides in? If it’s styrofoam, I don’t want that because I can’t recycle it easily.”

And on and on and on. I think I have seen people take less time to order off a menu in a bona fide Chinese restaurant where there were limited English explanations of what the menu items were. Good Lord people. This meal is only $6.00, but more importantly, I don’t want to starve to death while I am waiting on you to figure out your simple order.

In my fantasy world, when a person steps to the front of the line in my EPL, a digital clock starts running. Like the 24-second clock in the NBA. You get a reasonable amount of time to order. Let’s say it’s 2 minutes. This would take into account the picky teenager who isn’t sure they can choke down the mac and cheese because it looks icky. By all means, take the full 2 minutes. But if you haven’t completed your order by the time the 2 minutes are up, then BOOM. Back of the line with you, Jack.

I’m sure this will never happen. EPL, God bless their delicious chicken-making souls, is in business to make money. If they Soup Nazi-ed their customers they wouldn’t stay in business very long.

But PLEASE people, look at the menu before you get in line! Get at least a general idea of what you want. Get to the counter and ask a clarifying question or two. I get it. You want to understand what you’re ordering. But the waiter with the pepper mill isn’t coming by your booth. No sommelier is going to recommend a nice pinot noir. It’s a $6.00 meal. Order. Move. PLEASE!

I’ve Got a Bone to Pick with the IOC

February 15, 2010

Ok, I will admit it. I am not a huge fan of the Winter Olympics. Yes, ski jumping is fun to watch, particularly after all those years of watching the intro to Wide World of Sports. Bobsledding is kind of cool. But things like ice dancing? The biathlon? Curling? Those are sports?

But while beating up on the competitions at the Olympics is one thing, my beef is with the choice of venue for this year’s Games. As most of us know by now, Vancouver is having some unseasonably warm weather, and this has been wreaking havoc on the alpine skiing events, which for many (myself included) are the crown jewels of the Winter Olympics.

How does this happen? The IOC evaluates potential sites for the Olympics years in advance. For the Summer Games, things like the ability to raise the funds to erect the venues are critical. Major world cities are chosen (L.A., Montreal, Tokyo, Mexico City, etc.). The Winter Olympics are almost never in highly populous areas (Lake Placid, St. Moritz, Grenoble, Innsbruck, etc.). The common thread among these locations? How about suitably winter weather?

In Vancouver, they have had to truck snow in from distant locales, use snow machines, and worst of all, they have had to monkey around with the schedule several times so that they could try to find a time when suitable weather conditions would allow for the alpine skiing events to be held. How could an event of this magnitude be scheduled in a city where there was even the possibility that this could occur?

I don’t think we can attribute this to global warming, although can’t you just imagine that Al Gore is sipping a cocktail somewhere and smirking right now? No. This time, the blame goes to a bunch of organizers who can’t even bother to do an appropriate amount of due diligence on not just average weather conditions in February, but also on what the extremes are. If there was to be any chance that this fiasco could transpire, then they simply could not pick this city.

Oops.

I’ve Got a Bone to Pick with Ohio State Football Fans

February 12, 2010

Several years ago I started a small business with a fellow that I had worked with for many years at another company. We are both huge sportsaholics. I’m a southerner and grew up in and around  Atlanta and had parents and other family members that graduated from the University of Alabama. This made me a fan of the Atlanta pro sports teams and all Alabama sports teams, especially the football team. My business partner grew up in the Columbus, Ohio area and had many family members that graduated from Ohio State. Neither of us graduated from our respective rooting interests, opting instead to get our degrees elsewhere (another story for another day, perhaps).

My business partner, unlike myself,  has a relatively low-key personality. He’s passionate about his team, but typically not all that outspoken, unless prodded. I, on the other hand, have never had any compunction about expressing my love for all things Crimson Tide-related.

For most of the past decade, Ohio State’s football program has enjoyed a good deal of success. Their head coach, Jim Tressel, was hired after the 2001 season. Ohio State fans had enjoyed some success since Woody Hayes left the program in 1978, but neither Hayes’ successor, Earle Bruce, nor Bruce’s successor, John Cooper, ever lived up to the legend of Hayes himself. Tressel wasted little time in bringing Buckeye fans back to the promised land, winning a National Championship in his first full season as head coach in 2002. Little wonder, then, that he has been deified and put on the highest possible pedestal since then.

Conversely, Alabama’s program went through almost every imaginable form of hell: probation, recruiting scandal, coaching changes, and so on. But moreover, there were the losses. Lots and lots of losses.

While the Crimson Tide has won each of the three times these two teams have met on the gridiron, those memories were distant during the 2000s, as Ohio State stayed around the rarefied air of the top of the rankings, while Alabama was doing its best just to appear in bowl games on an annual basis. The two programs were miles apart in terms of the paths they were on.

Growing up in the 1970s, I knew nothing of such fallow periods. Alabama routinely won the SEC championship in that decade and was three times crowned the national champion. Needless to say, it wasn’t easy watching other programs enjoy significant success while my precious boys in crimson mostly struggled during the decade that just passed. Yes, of course the decade ended in glorious fashion, with the huge win over Texas that brought yet another championship to Tuscaloosa, but it was a long and arduous journey.

As for Ohio State fans, something happened to the whole lot of them during the decade of the 2000s. Sports fans are always passionate. As most of us know, the name fan is short for “fanatic”, so it’s easy to explain why so many of these people can act a bit crazy from time to time as they express their love for their respective teams. But somehow, Ohio State fans are different.

I have spent an enormous amount of time with fans of Notre Dame football. Notre Dame probably enjoys more widespread support from coast to coast in the U.S. than any other college program. Many Catholics are fans even if neither they nor any of their family members ever even attended the school.  And with the history of that school, with the “Gipper”, the four Horsemen, the Heisman winners, the scores of national championships, and so on, one would think that if any school’s fan base would be considered arrogant, it would be the fans of the Fighting Irish.

Let me tell you something. Notre Dame fans pale in arrogance to the fans of Ohio State.

I have spent an enormous amount of time thinking it over, but I do not understand it. yes, the Buckeyes brought home the championship in 2002, and have won more than a handful of Big Ten championships since then, but they have also been subjected to horrifically bad back-to-back losses in the championship games after the 2006 and 2007 seasons. They have lost marquis games in back-to-back seasons to USC. Outside of their recent Rose Bowl win, there have been precious few big wins to cheer about in Columbus.

But I confess to being about as perplexed as the Grinch on Christmas morning when he heard all of the Whos singing. This string of embarrassment has not tempered their arrogance one iota. If anything, Buckeye fans have found they have been able to strengthen their resolve to be arrogant even more. If you visit an Ohio State fan website at virtually any time of year, you wouldn’t have to muddle through many comments or articles to find the latest prognostication for another national championship in the upcoming season. Yet their ballyhooed quarterback, an incredibly cocky kid named Terrelle Pryor, hasn’t begun to live up to the hype that has followed him since he graduated from high school two years ago. The team has suffered losses to lowly teams such as Purdue. No matter. Talk to an Ohio State fan and they will tell you they cannot imagine there is any chance their team could lose a game during the 2010 season. This, they will tell you, is the year. Of course, every year is the year when you’re a Buckeye fan.

This goes way beyond normal fandom. It goes way beyond the support that any team’s supporters can usually muster up. It is, in fact, the sort of delusional can-do-no-wrong sort of blind faith that is often seen with sycophantic political supporters.

And I just don’t get it. At least the Grinch had his heart grow three sizes, he saw the meaning of Christmas, and so on. I, on the other hand, continue to puzzle this. My puzzler can’t seem to find the answer.

There’s one thing that can make this whole thing better. One thing that may not solve the riddle of the Buckeye arrogance. But a thing that will make me forget about it, if only for a while. Ohio State fans believe their team is going to make it back to the championship game after this coming season. The most likely opponent? Alabama’s Crimson Tide. Oh please. If there is a God…

I’ve got a bone to pick

February 11, 2010

I don’t know a great deal about a wide variety of subjects. Like most people, that will never stop me from having strong opinions and ranting about them. I hope to be able to defend those opinions well.

I enjoy it when people disagree with me. It generally offers up an opportunity for me to explain to them why they are wrong. I assure you, it’s just the medicine they need.

I often find myself joining forums, particularly those on the subject of sports. I am more than a sports enthusiast. I am a sportsaholic. My problem is that I often find that the opinions of others on these sports forums are difficult to abide. Sadly, these forums are are usually owned and run by someone or some group that feels they can punt (to use a sports metaphor) people like me that don’t share their opinions. It is these very people that have inspired me to start this blog.

Okay, back to sports. The world of sports is as good as politics, religion, personal relationships, or any of the other far-spreading arenas on which to spread an individual’s opinions. One can usually find confederates with like minds to join the hue and cry. Likewise, it usually doesn’t take much to find legions of others sportsaholics that find those opinions nonsensical and of little to no merit. Perfect.

I invite you to read my posts. I don’t care if you have an open mind or not. I think that you will generally find that if I disagree with you that I will gather together a mountain of evidence to support my claims and to ridicule yours. I may dismiss your responses with disdain. That’s the beauty of a personal blog. I cannot be punted by the administrator, because I am the administrator.

But make no mistake, I want you to visit here. I want you to read my musings. I want you to agree. I want you to disagree. And hopefully, you’ll leave the site having been entertained and with a desire to come back again and see what’s new.