Thursday Morning Open Thread: Tis the Season

In the spirit of letting y’all get your cranky on, a seasonal opinion: I actually like a good fruitcake, once a year. High-quality preserved fruits and nuts, in a rich batter, preferably non-alcoholic since the calories are quite enough of a dietary violation. Just because most of the products made or sold as fruitcakes aren’t any good, impugning the fruitcake has become a folk tradition — mostly, IMO, because it’s a once-a-year foodstuff released during the ‘Joyous Season’, when cooks are too busy to practice and eaters are looking for something they can jointly abuse without being called scrooges.

There’s any amount of truly lousy pizza produced every damned day of the year, but people don’t feel called to denounce the very concept of pizza because school cafeterias and Sbarros have an outsized market share. If you don’t like fruitcake, don’t eat fruitcake. More for those of us who do!

Floriduh Man! and Floriduh! Woman: Been a Busy Few Days in Pinellas County…

It’s been a while since we checked in with Floriduh! Man, or at least Floriduh! Man not trying to blow up a couple of dozen people, so let’s see what we’ve got cooking. Er, um…

Take it away Tampa Bay Times!

ST. PETERSBURG — It started with chicken wings, a beer and a burglar.

It went downhill from there.

A St. Petersburg police officer was investigating a Nov. 6 break-in at The Chattaway restaurant, reviewing surveillance video that shows the burglar devouring a plate of chicken wings and enjoying a beer inside the kitchen. But then the officer stumbled across another incident from the night before.

The video shows a man riding his bike up to the restaurant at 358 22nd Ave S, pedaling around the parking lot for 10 minutes, then slipping in through the back gate. After wandering around for a bit, he opens the door to a shed for storing odds and ends, and removes them one by one.

Then the man gains access to a restaurant bathroom. And exits without his clothes.

He proceeds to sit naked at one of the restaurant’s picnic tables and digs into a meal he brought with him — Maruchan Instant Lunch ramen. The video also shows him playing the bongos, also naked.

“He came in with pants on but he rode off on the bike without pants,” Chattaway server Chad Pearson said. “I’m not sure if he took his pants with him but we didn’t find them. We still don’t know where his pants are.”

He spray-painted a few chairs, the bongos and a pickle jar, but his handiwork was barely noticeable, manager Amanda Kitto said. Everything was put back so neatly, in fact, it was four hours before anyone noticed he had been there.

“We would not have known about the naked guy without the cop finding that video,” Kitto said.

Police identified the man, who is homeless, but did not release his name publicly. Kitto declined to give his name and said the restaurant will not press charges because he caused no harm.

“His goal was to not break in, his goal was to just hang out at The Chattaway.”

What about the first guy?

Police still are trying to catch him.

He enjoyed the plate of chicken wings and some beer, and stole an estimated $500 worth of stuff, including cash tips, a laptop, a tablet, and a grocery bag he filled with beer.

“He made himself at home,” Kitto said. “He spent over an hour just milling around going room to room and eating and drinking while he did it.”

The man also tried unsuccessfully to access the safe using his hands, a pot handle and tongs.

Kitto is confident that even though the two incidents happened back-to-back, they are not connected.

“I used to always joke and say that if you were going to break into The Chattaway to make sure to grab a beer. And it finally happened.”

I was hot, and I was hungry. Okay?

Also, given the Real Genius reference, this cannot be unseen!

Floriduh! Woman, however, also put in a strong showing.

Once again The Tampa Bay Times has got this story well in hand…

The lobster never saw it coming.

One second it was floating listlessly in a glass tank, vying against endless shrimp, the smell of Cheddar Bay Biscuits hanging hauntingly in the air. Then, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said, an apparently intoxicated St. Petersburg woman snatched the lobster from its crustaceous purgatory and ran.

The lobster was never seen again.

Kimberly Gabel was arrested Saturday on charges of disorderly intoxication and petit theft for causing a disturbance in the Red Lobster at 6151 34th St N . The restaurant had barely been open two hours.

It was just after 1:15 p.m., deputies said, when a manager at the restaurant asked Gabel to leave. The manager said she was disturbing customers and shouted obscenities as she made her way to the door. Before she could leave, though, the 42-year-old woman reached into the oft-familiar entryway lobster tank, grabbed a live lobster and bolted.

Deputies said they caught up with Gabel a “short distance later.” They said she smelled of alcohol and slurred her words as she continued cursing, telling deputies she didn’t know what she did with the lobster because she was “blacked out drunk” and that she “did not care because she did not do anything wrong.”

Deputies described Gabel as a homeless woman. According to Pinellas County Jail records, she has been arrested numerous times for charges ranging from public intoxication to multiple counts of burglary and theft. She is currently awaiting trial in Pinellas County Jail.

Stay hungry!

Open thread!

Donald Trump et al. Fatal Enablers.

To add to the story below of bombers for Trump, this news just broke (AP via TPM):

A white man with a history of violence and mental illness was recorded on surveillance video apparently trying to get inside a predominantly black church in Kentucky before he went to a grocery store and fatally shot two African-Americans, police said.

Gun folks and Republicans (a not entirely overlapping Venn diagram) will point to the mental illness part and say that guns and not-that-coded racism in our politics have nothing to do with this miserable story.

They’re wrong.

Guns work. They perform as intended. That means, just to state the obvious, guns make lethal intention easy — way too easy — to achieve. And mental illness, which, whatever this murderer’s history, may not obtain today, may create a situation in which the person thus affected needs to do something. But what that thing turns out to be is driven by context.

In America today that context is one of cheerleading for violence within an explicit framework of white nationalism, now trumpeted without even the veneer of code by Donald Trump himself:

 “Do you think it’s just a coincidence that bombs are sent to former President Barack Obama, to Hillary Clinton, to liberal philanthropist George Soros, to the New York office of CNN and to others during a week when Trump has been ratcheting up his race-based, fearmongering conspiracy theories and calling himself a ‘nationalist’? Trump feigns ignorance about the word, but he must know it rings like a dog whistle in the ears of every white supremacist and racist in the country, if not the world.”

This is what that dog whistle produced  in Kentucky.  Warning: stop here if the misery is too much for you today.

An arrest report says Bush walked into the Kroger, pulled a gun from his waist and shot a man in the back of the head, then kept shooting him multiple times “as he was down on the floor.” The report says Bush then reholstered his gun, walked outside and killed a woman in the parking lot. Each victim died of multiple gunshot wounds, Rogers said.

Just to be clear, in case anyone wondering if the choices of an African American church and then two black victims was somehow coincidence, this happened next:

Ed Harrell was quoted by the Courier Journal of Louisville as saying he was waiting on his wife in the parking lot when he heard gunshots and grabbed his revolver. As he crouched down, he said he saw the gunman walk “nonchalantly” by with a gun by his side. Harrell said he called out to ask what was going on, and the gunman replied: “Don’t shoot me. I won’t shoot you. Whites don’t shoot whites.”

I’d say that settles it:  a white guy decided that the time for race war has come and acted on that impulse.

His deeds are his own. The culture in which those actions were conceived and executed is that created by Donald Trump and his most fervent supporters — and enabled by the acquiescence of a GOP that will be shocked, shocked I tell you to learn that racist rhetoric evokes racist crime.

PS: As a lagniappe, let’s check in on the “good guy with a gun” follies:

A man carrying a concealed weapon who happened to be in the parking lot challenged Bush, and police say the suspect then “began firing wildly” at him, putting other shoppers in the parking lot in danger. Neither man was hurt in that confrontation, Rogers said.

Image: Giuseppi Arcimboldo, Fire1566.

What’s In Your Repertory? (Empty The Refrigerator Edition)

My spouse and I like to cook — a lot.  She’s a former pro, which helps, and I love food and find in cooking a kind of empty-mind release, so there are a lot of nights on which we make a pretty complicated meal.

And then there are the other evenings: we want good stuff, but it’s eight or so, and we don’t want eat at ten, or we’re just tired, or it’s too f**king hot, or we’ve been dealing with the sprout in ways that have consumed all our attention or whatever.

That was last night.  There wasn’t anything onerous, but me working on the book and she on a very tricky design, and the need to take a bike ride through the nicest late afternoon we’ve seen in a while, and this and that and then some more pushed us past the “let’s build a recipe” opportunity.

So we picked up a really pretty bone-in rib steak and set out to produce a meal that wouldn’t take that much longer to put together than the cooking time for the meat.

It turned out great — my other half roasted some late season corn on top of the stove, to be incorporated in a corn-and-peppers-and-onions relish; there was some farmer’s market broccoli rabe, quickly sauteed, and we got the steak right, done to a really nice medium rare, and given ten minutes to rest.

But my point in all this — and I do have one — is that the cherry on top, as it were, was a sauce for the steak that doesn’t come from any cookbook or online recipe. Instead, it just kind of emerged one evening as I was throwing some stuff together, and has gotten a little refined, and has now become a go-to.

It started from a simple garlic oil, the kind you put on pasta w. a bunch of cheese when you don’t want to cook at all.  Say, two or three cloves, depending on the monstrousness of your garlic bulb, finely chopped and dumped in a couple of teaspoons of hearty olive oil and some salt.  I use a tiny ceramic coated cast iron saucepan inherited from some long ago group apartment; anything small and heavy is great.

I put the pan over very low heat: the goal is to stew the garlic, not to fry it.  After a minute or two, I add some finely chopped shallot — about half a bulb, more or less the same volume as garlic, or at least not too much more than that.  Again, stew (or poach, if you prefer) over low heat until the shallots are nice and soft.  I often toss in some fresh thyme at this point.

Then I add two or three pappadew peppers — the pickled, kind of sweet red ones — again, finely chopped, and let them warm through.  Once the whole mix is up to temperature and nicely blending, I add between half and a full teaspoon each of whole grain mustard and prepared horseradish.  I taste, add a little maple syrup to give it that slightly sweet flavor I think goes great in a steak sauce, adjust again (had to add a little lemon last night, as I overdid it on the syrup pour), give it a stir, and call it done.

I have no idea where that came from; it may be just that I was looking at the inside of my fridge one evening and saw the necessary ingredients. But it’s dead simple and the bee’s knees — and it is a kind of all purpose thang too (it makes a great light pasta sauce on soba, for example).  Try it. To use the phrase every Hollywood mogul employs to say “f**k you”…

…trust me.

And with that, given it’s Sunday, and we may want to spend more than ninety seconds not utterly consumed by disasters, natural or political, how about a thread on cool stuff to eat you just made up.  And who cares if your delight might repulse the vast majority of humanity? If you invented it and like it, share it.

And, hell, this is an open thread, so anything else you’ve conjured out of the stray corners of your mind, (especially if its an invention in any domain of which you are ordinately proud).

Image: Adriaen van Utrecht, Banquet Still Life1644

No-Politics Open Thread

I had extra peaches from the Farmers’ Market, and I just needed them in something cakey. This is the New York Times’s classic plum torte, but with peaches. The crumbs I’ve tasted are good.

And I am SO tired of politics for a while. What are you doing that is delicious or fun?