Oddities and Obsessions

frenchfarmcook.jpgOnce upon a time, a long time ago, I decided to go on a liquid fast to lose weight. Needless to say, living on 400 calories a day of fake “milk shakes” is hell, but one strategy, which may sound counter-intuitive, was particularly helpful in getting me through 14 weeks of deprivation: I kept a stack of cookbooks next to the couch and another one by my bed. Reading recipes replaced eating recipes, and I lost a lot of weight. By the time I was ready to eat again, it turned out that I had replaced one addiction for another. My craving for cookbooks filled five shelves and then spilled onto the counters in my den.

Coupled with the many boxes of antiques scattered around the room, I kept expecting the camera crew from “Hoarders” to knock on my door. But what was I to do when I bought Susan Hermann Loomis’ “Farmhouse Cookbook” for its Best-Ever Chocolate Cake recipe, and then, five years later, her “French Farmhouse Cookbook” is released, with another chocolate cake recipe that says, “I thought I’d found the best-ever chocolate cake…but just when you think you’ve tasted the best there is, something better comes along”? Naturally, I had to buy that one, too. Eventually, it dawned on me that even if I made a new recipe every day for the rest of my life, I still couldn’t make all the ones I wanted to try in my 250+ cookbooks.

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welcome.jpgThis past January, something hot and sexy began creeping its way through the chilly winter snows in Idyllwild, California. Locals were struck with the highly contagious Caseymania, which is like Beatlemania but without the screaming hysterical teenage girls. Well, not in Idyllwild, at least. But to inhabitants of this tiny mountain town, it was close to the same thing.

The median age of the town’s 4,000 inhabitants is 47.2, so hysterical screaming might have been at a minimum, but instead, this all-American town offered up enduring and low-key pride. Casey Abrams is the town’s boy, they own him, they love him and they support him. Even now that he’s been “voted off”, their hope springs eternal.

casey_abrams.jpg“He gets to tour, bound to make upwards of a hundred-fifty thou,” you hear an old-timer say with the cantankerous certainty of a gold prospector. Poor Casey never stood a chance. He had three big strikes against him in the TV-blurred minds of the American Idol voters (them being tweenage girls).

Strike 1: He’s funny-looking.
Strike 2: He’s a ginger.
Strike 3: He’s undeniably talented.

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twinkies.jpghallie ephronImagine life without Twinkies? A year ago Hostess Brands went into bankruptcy. This week, in the wake of a labor strike, it sounds as if they may be winding down operations permanently.

I've never been a Twinkies fan, but I love the word. Just for example, from a Seinfeld show, Jerry describes Newman: "He's a mystery wrapped in a Twinkie." It doesn't even have to make sense to be funny.

And in Blue Man Group, the blue men watch intently as a volunteer from the audience tries to eat a Twinkie with a knife and fork. Do not ask me why this is hilarious. It just is.

And even though I may have eaten four of them in my entire life, just say the word and I can smell those sugary vapors that escape when you tear open the package. I remember what it's like to bite the yellow sponge-rubbery cushions of cake and into white filling with the resistance of shaving cream. I can feel the oleaginous residue left (for hours) on the roof of the mouth.

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