Friday, August 29, 2008

Crenshaw Melon

Although I promised never to include something here again based on its enormity but I swear it wasn't the size that drew me to the crenshaw. Looking more like a gourd than a melon, I must admit that I had high hopes for this mass of ugliness.

crenshaw melon lift

The crenshaw (also spelled cranshaw) is cultivar of the Muskmelon species, like the honeydew but the fruit does not look much like its sibling. Yellow and with the appearance of shriveled skin, I was expecting something a bit more musky but, much to my dismay, the pale orange flesh tasted more like a bland cantaloupe. This is not to imply that it was bad in anyway, simply not as exotic and flavorful as I had expected.

crenshaw melon split

I think I've learned my lesson with melons. However, if there are any particularly strange and delicious varieties out there, please throw one my way... just not too hard.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Pork Rinds

Yes, pork rinds are very commonplace and disregarding the fact that I think most people find them strange despite their widespread availability, the disturbing nature intrinsic to fried pieces of pig skin is not my reason for including them here among my studies of sickening snacks. So put your soiled undershirts on and hear me out for a second.

pork rinds bag

I used to be a porker myself and in order not to revert to my naturally round state I must adhere, with unwavering insanity, to a strict diet and exercise regimen. You have no idea what it takes to counteract the weight expanding effect of some of the foods I sample here for you, dear reader. But imagine you are in the chip and snack aisle in the super market, what would be the last thing you'd pick up if trying to stay fit and lean? Pork rinds, right? Funnily enough, they ought to be one of the first bags you reach for.

You see, pork rinds are full of fat. Unfortunately, fat has been so vilified in modern society over the past 20-30 years that it's become anathema to anyone seeking a healthy diet. But fat is essential to our bodily health and people are now having to take fatty acid supplements to make up for the dearth of a reasonable daily consumption of fat.

pork rinds

According to Men's Health magazine "43 percent of a pork rind's fat is unsaturated, and most of that is oleic acid -- the same healthy fat found in olive oil. Another 13 percent of its fat content is stearic acid, a type of saturated fat that's considered harmless, because it doesn't raise cholesterol levels." They also contain zero carbs and a one ounce serving has 17 grams of protein, a far better nutritional profile than your average potato chip. Needless to say, downing an entire bag in a couple hours isn't going to do you any good. Like all foods, pork rinds should be consumed in moderation but the satiating nature of protein and fat rich foods should help ensure that this snack isn't something you'll overindulge on.

pork rind close up

For those of you who have never tried them, pork rinds are fluffy and crispy, tasting like fat with a slight pork flavor, just what you'd expect from fried pieces of pig skin.

So, by no means am I encouraging you to "pig out"... I'm just letting you know that they aren't such a bad alternative.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Kopi Luwak

In the Indonesian islands of Sumatra, Java, and Sulawesi there lives Paradoxurus hermaphroditus, a small creature commonly known as the Asian Palm Civet. This cat-like creature can be thought of as the Asian equivalent of a raccoon in form and function. It has a varied diet and feeds primarily upon exotic fruits like mango, chiku, and rambutan. A lot of coffee grows in these Indonesian Islands and the Asian Palm Civet also likes to feast on the coffee cherries. Being a hardy little fruit, the cherry often leaves the civet with some flesh still covering the bean. That is to say, the coffee beans survive the digestive processes of the civet and are defecated out intact.

Kopi Luwak beans2

And this is where it gets strange.

People then collect the beans from the excrement, yes they pluck the partially digested cherries from the poo. The carefully selected fecal matter is taken away and washed, hopefully quite thoroughly. The clean beans are then roasted, packaged, and sold for $120-600 per pound, making it one of the most expensive food items in the world. That's some expensive shit. [Please forgive me for my inability to let that cliche pass unuttered.]

Kopi Luwak bean

Why, you may ask, would people go to all this trouble and pay such exorbitant prices for something so conceptually disgusting? The partial digestion of the coffee beans changes their chemical composition and thus the flavor. Even seasoned coffee lovers can sometimes be taken aback by the bitterness and acidity of their favorite brew and the Asian Palm Civet has unknowingly found a remedy to this situation. Kopi Luwak has the distinct and bold taste one associates with coffee but without the bitter and acid notes. The flavor is smooth and bold and the lack of any caustic elements makes sweeteners absolutely unnecessary. For those who can't typically manage drinking coffee black, this would be the cup of java that changes your mind.

Kopi Luwak brew

It is by the good will of another individual that I came to sample Kopi Luwak and even though the experience was highly enjoyable I don't think I'll be paying the high price for any further imbibing in the near future. Besides, there's something wholly satisfying about that bitter kick in my horrendously strong coffee... like a raging alcoholic taking a swig from their flask, it's strangely enjoyable to feel the burn, to savor the wonderful flavors and the tasking bitterness all at once. But, on the other hand, it is a lot fun to tell people that you're drinking poo.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Chocolate Soda

Have you ever wanted to drink a carbonated Tootsie Roll? Well, if you have then you're a) disgusting and b) in luck.

Canfield's Diet Chocolate Fudge brings back memories; horrid memories of projectile vomiting, diarrhea, jet lag, and the tumultuous transition from the place of my childhood to a frightening foreign land. No, this strange swill didn't cause any of these things but it's forever entwined with the experience.

chocolate soda

In 1991 I came to the US with my family. I was young and it was my first time on a plane. The first four hours went fantastically but then I had my initial encounter with airline food. What followed during the remaining ten hours of the flight still exhausts me just thinking about it but there was one upside to the whole ordeal. It turns out that you can get through customs and immigration really fast if you have three children dry heaving so violently that their noses are bleeding... apparently that buys you an express ticket to the front of the line.

After a couple hours in the car we finally made it to our temporary destination where I was greeted with some very strange beverage choices, one of them being chocolate soda. I don't remember the brand so I can't blame Canfield for the resultant disaster but the stomach demons were awakened once again.

chocolate soda

I was a little worried when I saw this stuff for sale at the local super market. Funnily enough, it wasn't with the rest of the sodas. Instead it was in a little section containing those strange diet teas (read: laxatives) and other oddities. Maybe the vomiting is actually a dieting tactic.

There isn't much to say about the taste beyond the Tootsie Roll juice description. I guess you could compare it to a very thin chocolate syrup, the cheapest kind you can buy. There's no sugar and the artificial sweetener is so overbearing that I could barely manage to swallow a couple mouthfuls. In fact, there's no nutritional value whatsoever, zeroes across the board.

chocolate soda nutrition

This beverage was apparently incredibly successful for a few years in the 80s and I was about to say something like "and I can't imagine why" but then I reminisced with myself about that ridiculous decade for a couple seconds. And although these cans had probably been sitting on the shelf there since the early 90s, I didn't start vomiting this time but I wasn't able to get beyond a few sips so I might have if I had soldiered through the entire can. There's five left, who wants them? Drink at your own risk.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Apriums are recently developed hybrids of, as the name may suggest, apricots and plums. Those fearful of "frankenfoods" and the genetic engineering/maniuplation of plants to advance, enhance, or enrich the viability and variability of consumer produce ought stay away as this is an entirely "unnatural" being. I fear not the sweet nectar of science.


Apricots and plums are members of the genus Prunus which also includes peaches, cherries, and almonds, hence the physical similarities between the fruits and pits and the potential for hybridization.

The fruit appears to be a larger than normal apricot with a deeper orange hue. This confuses the employees at your local supermarket where, although the fruit came from a basket marked aprium, the absence of an entry in the store's produce database leads them to run around frantically until they proclaim, unanimously, that the thing is an apricot.

"It's actually an aprium."

"Yeah, that's the same thing as an apricot."

Taxonomy and facts aside, the aprium indeed looks and smells a lot like an apricot. Dig in and you'll find the flesh combines the distinctive flavor of the apricot with the incredible sweetness and texture of the plum. The skin almost seems unsuited for containing the succulence of the ripe flesh inside and appears to bruise easily but without any significant impact on the taste.

aprium innards

Hybrids are interesting but this isn't one I'd go out of my way to buy again. With apricots costing about the same and plums much cheaper, I think I'll just stick with the parents. I do, however, appreciate the science and novelty. What will they think of next? I'm hoping for a cross between an orange and a banana... an orana. Just think of the possibilities... well, the one possibility: Orana Tang. I'd drink to that.