Tuesday, October 27, 2009

You Say Po-tay-to...I Say Not-Hot-o

I watch a lot of Man v. Food, Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, and similar shows featured on The Travel Channel. The hosts of these shows journey across the United States and to all corners of the world to consume unique delicacies that whet the appetite of some and make others dry-heave in disgust.

Well, I stumbled on my own unique delicacy this morning: Having purchased too much for dinner last night at my local Wawa, I refrigerated the surplus, which included a medium "loaded potato" soup. As you can imagine, a thick, cream-based soup congeals quite a bit after sitting all night in cold air. Refrigeration highlighted the flavors, with each seasoning tasting nearly as strong as the potatoes themselves. The smokey bacon flavor wasn't gamey at all, and the fire-roasted onion provided enough early morning bite to really wake me up. Aside from the succulent chunks of potato, the soup itself had a texture more grainy than Icelandic skyr, yet smoother and less chalky than nutria gumbo. I quite liked its pasty consistency and wished I'd had a bagel on which to spread it. Soup on a bagel? It might sound gross to some, but it would be heaven to me. The soup's color remained an off-white, dotted with specks of black pepper...not unlike stewed tuna eyes and lemon ants over pickled lamprey, so prized by the hardy residents of St. Petersburg, Russia. As you'd expect, the soup's aroma possessed that earthy, potatoey scent common to a tuber, but I also detected hints of coriander, which may or may not have been mold. All in all, my refrigerated, semi-solid soup was a delicious surprise and speaks to the power of cold leftovers.

Officially known in their native tongue as Waw'a ("Children of perpetual convenience"), the people of Wawa possess a zest for life that's reflected in the culture of their surroundings and the foods they prepare. Just because you don't have to travel thousands of miles to get to one doesn't mean that their cuisine is run-of-the-mill. My loaded potato soup, so good fresh out of the crock pot, was even better the next morning. If you love food, you really need to visit Wawa, take home some of their culinary masterpieces, and put them in the fridge. Great food, friendly inhabitants, and an ATM that doesn't require a service charge. Is it any wonder I hope to return to Wawa again and again? So remember: If it looks good enough to eat...refrigerate it!

(Photo of Andrew Zimmern copyright The Travel Channel; photo of soup copyright Wawa, Inc.)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Caught With Their Pants Down

It has become disgustingly fashionable for Major Leaguers to wear their baseball pants as low as possible on their legs, often with pants that are one size too big to begin with. I don't know which diamond genius first thought this chic, but it's caught on like wildfire and transformed the game for the worse. Not showing any stirrups—one of the classic elements of the baseball uniform—is bad enough; some players take even this horrible look to the extreme: pulling the pants leg past the top of the cleat, nearly to the heel, completely covering the ankle and the back half of the cleat itself. Not only does it not look baseball-ish...it looks retarded. Whereas baseball pants hiked just below the knee, exposing plenty of stirrup, looked so good on old-timers, current players such as David Oritz, Manny Ramirez, Ryan Howard, C.C. Sabathia, Josh Beckett, and—perhaps the worst offender—Prince Fielder look like fat kids wearing footed pajamas.

See how Fielder used to wear his pants—traditional, classic, stylish. But since he began covering up his stirrups and cleats, Fielder looks like he belongs in a sack race, not the batter's box. Sure, it's more important to play well than to look good—and these players do—but it's more important to look good than to look asinine—and these players don't. They simply don't look like athletes.

In fact, the frumpy full-pants look makes the already-rotund Sabathia resemble the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

Why has baseball turned its pants on such a vintage and unique feature of its apparel?

Observe how much Brendan Ryan (left) and Juan Pierre (right) look like ballplayers. Sleek. Classy. Graceful. Had Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle worn their pants in the aesthetically laughable manner of Prince Fielder or David Ortiz, they never would have become everlasting icons—because they would have looked too ridiculous to fit the part of their legendary achievements. The stirrup is akin to the hockey sock, another definitive uniform component—and remember how bad the Philadelphia Flyers and Hartford Whalers looked in long pants in the early 1980s. Long pants were an affront to the sport, and the NHL wisely outlawed them. Well, this cleat-covering movement is as big an embarrassment to baseball as the steroids scandal—it just hasn't left its mark in the record book.* I almost prefer the 1976 White Sox' short pants, which remains baseball's darkest hour—but not by much. If Commissioner Bud Selig wishes to salvage any shred of his legacy during his scandal-stained administration, he needs to outlaw this preposterous practice of pants-to-the-heels.

*I encourage the Elias Sports Bureau to henceforth denote in the Official Record Book the annual statistics of any player who collected said statistics while wearing his pants legs at his cleats, so that his achievements—however lofty—will be tempered by the fact that he looked stupid while attaining them.

Say what you will about The Babe. Sure, in later years, he was, like Sabathia and Fielder, a blob from the waist up—but at least he still looked like half a ballplayer.

(Photo of Babe Ruth copyright NY Daily News.)

They Have Finally Begun to Fight!

Somali pirates attacked the French navy's refueling ship La Somme yesterday after mistaking it for a commercial vessel. The 3,800-ton La Somme easily repelled the attack, capturing one of the two marauding skiffs and its crew of five pirates. This marks the first time in history that the French military did not immediately surrender to an attacker. Speaking through a translator, a spokesman for the French Minister of Defence called the captain's decision not to surrender "courage on par with Admiral Spruance, in this, France's Battle of Midway." He concluded that a massive tickertape parade down the Champs-Élysées is being planned to celebrate this "great victory for the people of France" and warned, "Let no one ever again call the Arc de Triomphe an empty boast!"

The spokesman later surrendered to the translator.

(Photo of warship copyright Associated Press; photo of captured pirates copyright ECPAD.)