Monthly Archives: May 2012
Foco has done it again… sort of. Apparently, the fine folks from Foco have determined that using misnomers for their products has been done too many times, and it’s time to change. Enter Chrysanthemum Drink, or Bebida de Crisantemo, since Foco is worldly but not in a Francophone way.
I was told by my colleague that I should expect Chrysanthemum Drink to be unpleasant tasting. I wanted to be the Foco of the tasting world, and go against the grain, so I had relatively high expectations for the Chrysanthemum drink. You’ll find out in a later article that things that taste flowery tend to be kind of good. Chrysanthemum is a long, lilting word which made me think of cozy afternoons, lying in hammocks on the beach. I thought it would be sort of like an herbal tea, but a tad lighter. I thought it would be a pleasant yellow color, like beams of liquid sunlight (you can probably see where this is going). I was genuinely excited for David to bring to me Chrysanthemum drink. My expectations were, much like they were for Wax Gourd Drink, proven wrong. This completely fabricated personal account describes my experience:
I walked through the bamboo archway, into a peaceful herb and tea garden. The sun slowly set in front of me, reflecting off of the streams that laced through the vegetation. There was a palm frond hut to my side, its open door beckoning to me, inviting me to come inside and drink. So, I looked through my choices: herb tea, chamomile, green tea, and black tea. I wasn’t interested. I saw a garden bed with Chrysanthemum plants growing in it. A line of water came from the back of the bed. All of a sudden, a cup magically appeared in my hand, glistening with divine utensil-ness. I decided to dip my cup in the water that came from behind the garden. It looked beautiful in the waning sunlight. So, I took it into the hut. I noticed that it now looked vaguely like urine. However, if we learned anything from Shownice Boiled Salted Duck Eggs, it’s that appearances can be deceiving. So, I decided that I would drink it anyways. I put the cup up to my mouth, and immediately put it down. It smelled revolting. Hey, I thought to myself, smells can be deceiving as well. After all, there are no floating chunks in it. I put it up to my mouth, didn’t breathe in, and drank. Time stopped. I became very aware of my surroundings. The sun disappeared. It started raining fermented herring, and the smell permeated throughout the garden. The liquid flowed between my lips, and onto my tongue. I swallowed, and set the can down. I ruminated on the taste. I realized that it was a terrible idea to put Chrysanthemum flower runoff into my mouth. For all intents and purposes, it tasted like garden water. Well, seeing as I had never consumed garden water, it tasted like the smell of garden water, mixed with some fertilizer and a few dead flowers and leaves. In case you don’t understand what I’m implying, it was disgusting. I tried it again, hoping that it was an acquired taste, but it yielded the same result. I fled out of the hut, into the aquatic animal downpour, and out of the garden, spitting out the taste without break for as long as I could.
In other words, I’m sorry if I offended those who enjoy Chrysanthemum drink. However, if you have a tame, Western palette like mine, stay away from Chrysanthemum beverages. For your own sake, stick to Wax Gourd Drink and Soursop juice, even if they have terrible names.
I’d like to introduce you to the Soapberry family (or the Sapindaceae family as they were known before their name was unceremoniously Anglicized by an Ellis Island functionary). It’s a big family, including Maple, Horse-Chestnut, Pitomba, and the eponymous Soapberry. By the way, aren’t you glad you’re not named Soapberry Soapberry?
Today we’re going to meet two members of this eclectic family: Lychee and Rambutan. Lychee is a small fruit with a firm red skin that is slightly spiny. Inside is a juicy white fruit that tastes a bit like a flowery grape, and a large smooth pit. The texture is also similar to that of a grape. But whatever you do, don’t mention this similarity to Lychee. It takes great offense at the suggestion that it could be related to the grape in any way. Personally, I don’t believe its vociferous denials. I think that way back when, a bunch of grapes got tired of being eaten, so they decided to bulk up, grow a thick skin and take on a new name that sounded nothing like “grape”. A fat lot of good that did them; lychee-flavored snacks are everywhere. There are lychee juice boxes, lychee candies, lychee gelatin cups, and lychee gumdrops. In fact, I think lychees might just be Asia’s hazelnut (and as we’ve learned, hazelnuts are Europe’s peanut — or Europe’s kudzu). Those grapes thought they had a good plan, with their spiny skin and giant girth, but you know what they say about the best-laid plans of grapes and hazelnuts.
Every family has a hairy cousin, and when it comes to the Soapberry family, that role is filled by Rambutan. Rambutan looks quite a bit like Lychee on the inside, and has a more subtle flavor. The difference is on the outside, where Rambutan looks less like a tropical fruit and more like something that fell to Earth from parts unknown. It may have even come from the same place as those evil chestnuts, but the chestnuts seem tame in comparison. I think I could safely flee an onslaught of chafed chestnuts, but I wouldn’t want to take my chances against a regiment of rampaging rambutans. The hairy disguise has helped the rambutan to avoid the fate of the lychee, but rambutans are still widely consumed in spite of their alien appearance. Remember that next time you think you can solve all of your problems by growing a scruffy beard and building a cabin in the woods.
I hope you’ve enjoyed your brief encounter with the Soapberry family. I also invited Guinip, Ackee, and Korlan, but Guinip wouldn’t come if Rambutan was going to be there, and Korlan just had a huge argument with Lychee. Ackee mumbled something about the Federal Bureau of Foreign Culinary Relations and hung up the phone. I’m telling you, it’s like a Soapberry soap opera in that family!
Clearly, the beverage world yearns to confuse the public with disgusting sounding names for their products. Previously, Foco created Soursop juice, a product so deliciously tropical (and strawberry-y) that it must be given a terrible name to keep it in stock. Now, another company wishes to step into the limelight of revolting drink names: Chin Chin, with their Wax Gourd Drink (or Boisson de Citrouille, since Chin Chin is a very worldly company).
When the words “Wax Gourd” entered my auditory cavities, two things crossed my mind. First, and least likely, a zucchini candle. Then, as my brain began to wrap my head around the idea of Wax Gourd, squash juice. Citrouille even roughly translates to pumpkin!
However, if you didn’t think either of these things, you’re probably wrong, as Wax Gourd drink defied most of the expectations that I held, and possibly could hold. To summarize my findings, I present to you a haiku:
Wax Gourd Drink has… wait. I don’t know anything about poetry. Never mind.
I’ll do my best to describe its taste in a different way. To start out, as I stated, it tastes nothing like any gourd I’ve ever had. It doesn’t taste like a flaming zucchini, although it did have a slightly candle wax taste to it. Don’t ask why I’ve eaten candle wax. It’s a top Federal Bureau of Foreign Culinary Relations secret. More specifically, imagine that you’re chewing a piece of flavorless, sugar-only gum. You are a twisted person, so you decide that you want to eat some chocolate, as well. So, you put some semi-sweet chocolate chips into your mouth, as you chew the gum. You keep on masticating, until you realize: What better to go with sugar gum and chocolate than weak, lukewarm coffee?! So, you pour some coffee, add too much milk, and let it sit at room temperature for about 6 hours. Once the time has passed, you put it in your mouth, and let it blend in with the chewed-to-a-pulp gum and chocolate. You are disgusted by the taste, so you spit it out. Then, for some reason, you do it again. When the gum-chocolate-coffee mixture is chewed too much to bear, you spit it out, and do it again…and again…and again…and again. You begin to enjoy the experience. It tastes sweet, almost sickly so, but not in a bad way. It’s the kind of sickly sweet that happens when your most hated in-law falls ill. It’s a good sickly sweet. Now, you’re really into it. You wonder why you had such low expectations. Then, you remember: Chin Chin is trying to create the Super Squash Scheme, to stop overconsumption of Wax Gourd Drink, as it is the best sugar/weak coffee/semi-sweet chocolate confection you’ve ever digested. You render your revelations unto your peers, and you start planning to write a blog entry. You look up Wax Gourd, only to find that it has many other more pleasant sounding names. You prepare to share them with the world, but not before several sharply dressed Asian men show up at your door and hit you with a baseball bat. You decide against it.
This anecdote accurately details my time with the Wax Gourd drink, with all of its mediocre breakfast complexities. Although I will not share with you the alternate names of Wax Gourd (which is actually a vine, fruit, and vegetable, depending on the stage of its life), it is my great pleasure to publish this article chronicling the story of the Wax Gourd drink–a strange, multifaceted, chocolate/weak coffee tasting, but delightfully desirable beverage made from a strange sounding fruit. If you enjoy things like that, I highly recommend that you travel to your closest mediocre Asian breakfast establishment and pick some up.
The Curious Case of the Conspicuous Croatian Candy and the Consequent Croat Connection, with assistance from the Croatian Contact
Today, I have a story to tell you. There is a short review at the bottom, but I highly recommend reading the story. It is a story detailing some of my activities as a young lad (last week). It begins with my time as a very specific kind of law enforcement officer.
I WALKED into the main office building of the Federal Bureau of Foreign Culinary Relations, or FBFCR. My secretary, Barbara, soon told me that the commissioner wanted to see me in his office, immediately. At the time, I was a young, successful, and very motivated young investigator, with numerous cases under my belt, from facilitating the growth of the edible Mangoustani diaspora after the East-West Mangoustan split, to making sure that the Vast Soursop Conspiracy remains a conspira–I can’t say more. Anyhow, I entered the commissioners office.
“Alright, Agent Kimbel-Sannit,” he said. “You have a series of choices for your next assignment. One, you can try to assassinate the Foreign Foods Minister of East Mangoustan. Two, you can see why the Croatian Connection has gone dark, and why they’ve stopped assisting us in our quest to discover the true taste of Ledena filing in Dorina brand chocolate bars. Or, you can silence an overly sly individual who is snooping around the bowels of various soursop production facilities.”
“What’s this about Ledena?” I said.
The commissioner responded, “Well, it is the flavor of a specific kind of Croatian Candy produced by Dorina. However, it gives no information as to what Ledena is, and the word doesn’t check out with any of our translators. The wrapper depicts a series of clear cubes–either ice chunks or rough cut diamonds. As none of our tasters have gotten rich, or choked from consumption of a rock, we need to figure out what the ice cube signifies, and what Ledena is.”
“Well… I suppose I’ll take that case, then,” I said.
“Good,” the commissioner responded, “as I wasn’t going to give you a choice anyway. You need to fly to Croatia and see what’s going on over there. We have a contact in the Croatian government, who is no friend of the Foreign Foods ministry. She’ll help you figure out what’s going on. You leave tomorrow. Be careful, though, as the Croatian Culinary Cabinet is Crammed with Cruel Communism.”
“Fine. I’ll return with the results,” I said.
I LANDED at the airport in Zagreb without knowing what was to come next. I stepped out onto the street, met with a cool breeze, with an almost minty quality. However, something felt…off. A woman in a tight black leather jumpsuit approached me.
“You must be Tatiana, my contact,” I said.
“How did you know that my name was Tatiana?” She responded.
“Well,” I said, “women who wear tight black leather outfits have to be named Tatiana, and women named Tatiana have to be contacts to various secret agents and government workers.”
“You are very good. Agent Kimbel-Sannit, I presume?” She said.
“Indeed,” I responded.
“Here’s the deal. This isn’t a movie, so you DO NOT have time to seduce me. The building of the Croatian Connection is around the corner. However, a bomb went off in front of it during your trip here. The building is fine, but it is roped off. I imagine that whoever, or whatever, is stopping the Ledena identification process will have used the opportunity to sneak into the building. You must do the same.”
“Agh! Damn those crafty conniving Croatian communist culinary cloggers!” I said, angered.
WE WENT to the building, thinking of ways to get in. The lights were off, as the building had been evacuated. However, from the back of the building, we could see a faint white glow coming through an open window.
“A computer,” we said in unison.
“I’ll clamber up into the window, and hide behind something. I’m unarmed, but I imagine you are not. I’ll throw something down if there is someone there, and if there isn’t, I’ll come down myself. If someone is there, and I give the signal, come in too,” Tatiana said. I agreed, and stood by as she climbed up through the window. Unsurprisingly, the signal came. A stapler hit the ground beneath the window with a thud, and I quickly made my way up to and through the window. We made eye contact, and she gestured towards the computer. A man sat hunched over the screen. He appeared to be deleting files.
“Ah!” I whispered. “The Croatians had the information all along. They were witholding it from us!” Tatiana nodded, and I stood up from behind a desk we were hiding behind, pulling out my pistol. I yelled, in my mediocre Croatian.
“Stop whatever you are doing, and turn around with your hands up!” I hollered. The man complied. I checked the screen, keeping my gun on the man, only to see that all of the files were gone. “Tell me!” I said.
“Tell you what?” He was flustered, and clearly afraid. I could tell by his lack of composure and nice clothing that he worked for the Croatian government. He probably thought he was safe.
“Ledena! What is it? You can’t distribute it without stating what it is!”
“Never, you capitalist pig!” He responded.
“Fine, then. Before I shoot you, tell me why you deleted the files!”
“Never!” He said. I saw that he had something sticking out of his pocket. I wasn’t sure, but it looked like a flash drive. I didn’t know what else it could have been. So, I shot it out of his pocket. He wasn’t hurt, but he was now even more frightened, and worried at the loss of the drive. “Fine,” he said. “We were sick of you westerners telling us how to eat our food. Ledena was the only thing you didn’t know about, so the head of the Foreign Foods Ministry contacted us, telling us that if we stopped you from knowing about Ledena, they would join us in creating a Workers Utopia, filled with food for the people–the Croatian People.”
“Whatever. I don’t really care about your politics. Tell me what Ledena is. You are just a pawn of the Connection and the Ministry. They will go corrupt. You don’t need to ally with them. Tell me.”
“Okay, I give. Ledena is–”
“Don’t tell him, Agent Yogreb.” Tatiana said. She had a gun pointed at my back. I dropped mine.
“You know each other!? Agh, you DO sleep with government agents, you liar!” I yelled.
She ignored me. “Tell me, she said. I want to help realize your dream. You are not a pawn. You are a person. A worker. The information needs to exist in two places, with the flash drive gone.” He approved, and whispered into her ear. She nodded. He made his way out the door. However, as he did, she spun around and drove a bullet through his skull.
“Well, you’re indecisive today, aren’t you,” I said.
“Stop with the jokes. You might make me want to kill you yet.”
“So, what is it? What is Ledena?” I said.
“Get headquarters on the phone. Tell them that Ledena flavor is actually a combination of menthol and lemon, and that the ice cubes indicate the minty flavor,” she said.
“Ah! It all makes sense now,” I responded. “So, does this mean that–”
“No, you still may not try to seduce me,” she said.
“Whatever.” I made my way out, and down the window, looking for the nearest phone booth. I was content, knowing that I had solved the great Croatian Confection Caper, and only in two blog-days.
In all seriousness, however, David and I did try a Dorina Ledena chocolate bar, and the taste was…ambiguous. It was sort of minty, but it did have a sort of citrusy taste. Other bystanders, when offered the chocolate, could not come to a conclusion in regards to the taste either. There was no indication on the wrapper, save for the ice cubes on the front. Eventually, I decided to do some secret agent work myself, and I ventured to the dark, corrupt land of Google. Multiple pages in, I found the answer. Ledena is menthol and lemon. Imagine a taste resembling such. When encased in dark chocolate, it tastes like a sort of sickly peppermint and chocolate patty. I didn’t enjoy the taste originally, but it sort of grew on me. When all was said and consumed, I wasn’t particularly pleased with me Ledena experience. Well, you win some and you lose some.
Would you like a nice hard-boiled egg? Are you sure? Because this isn’t just any old hard-boiled egg. This is a Boiled Salted Duck Egg. In fact, it is a Shownice Boiled Salted Duck Egg. Shownice isn’t the brand; it’s a description of how nice these eggs are. As near as I can tell, it means that they’re nice enough to take to a show. This word is most commonly used to describe formal attire, but clearly it can apply to foods as well. These eggs are brought to you by Kindly Eggs Co., Ltd. and are proudly made in Taiwan. Very proudly made in Taiwan, in fact; the package proclaims: “Made in Taiwan”, “Product of Taiwan”, “All eggs are originated from certified flock by Taiwan official”, and “All eggs cases are made and packed in Taiwan of origin.” Someone in Taiwan is very proud of these eggs, and it wouldn’t be fair to deprive them of their chance at glory.
Inside the package are six individually-wrapped eggs, each in a vacuum-sealed easy-open plastic bag. Opening the bag itself reveals a small speckled egg and a slightly salty smell. I expected an offensive odor, but it actually didn’t smell bad at all. I removed the shell and cut the egg in half, revealing what my culinary co-conspirator cleverly called a “peculiar polychromatic poached poultry product.” As you can see from the picture, this isn’t your normal white-and-yellow boiled egg. In fact, the yolk was much, much darker than what is shown on the packaging. The sight of this left at least one bystander rapidly recoiling (and nearly regurgitating), but in spite of this, I knew that it wouldn’t be fair to deny these shownice eggs their moment in the sun. (By the way, don’t actually put the eggs in the sun. The package specifically states to place them in the shade.)
My fellow strange-snack sampler and I winced as we prepared to partake of this outlandish ovum. That this would be a revolting ration seemed positively preordained, but somewhere there was a proud purveyor of poultry whose products deserved an equitable evaluation. We both bravely bit into the mysterious morsel, and the results were absolutely astounding. It actually tasted good. I always put salt on hard-boiled eggs, but this one was already helpfully salted by Kindly Eggs Co., Ltd. (which was very kind of them). It didn’t need anything extra. I’ll probably eat the rest of these.
It’s your lucky day! Thanks to Honeydew Flavor Lucky Thin Crackers, you finally have an excuse for why you can’t eat fruit. As you can see, your honeydew wasn’t just full of pandan-colored melon flesh; it was also full of Lucky Thin Crackers. And who would want to eat boring old honeydew when there were all those thin, melon-flavored crackers laying around?
Of course you probably didn’t expect to find honeydew flavored crackers anywhere, especially not inside your melon, since it’s not something you’re used to seeing on the store shelves. American crackers come in a variety of flavors, such as: plain, salted, cheese, cheddar cheese, nacho cheese, nacho cheddar cheese, cheddar nacho cheese, vegetable, garden vegetable, vegetable garden, cheesy vegetable, garden cheese, and salted garden nacho cheddar vegetable. More exotic crackers also come in a variety of flavors, such as honeydew. It’s a good thing, too, because I was really tired of both nacho cheddar cheese and cheddar nacho cheese.
The honeydew flavor (natural and artificial) is carried by a sweet smattering of sugar crystals that are scattered on a single surface of the cracker. As promised, the crackers are thin, and they taste a bit like honeydew. More like lime, but at there are hints of honeydew hiding in there.
As with the earlier mystery of Pandan Drink With Basil Seed, I never did figure out who hid the crackers in the honeydew melon. All three of the primary suspects were again obviously innocent. There must be another confection cabal out there surreptitiously sticking seeds into sugary snacks and covertly converting cantaloupes into crackers. My mission is to find them…