Archive for September, 2007

One-Handed Grapefruit Spoons

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

I know I’m a bit off-season with this, as it will still be a couple of months for grapefruits to come back around. But, it’s not too early to think about them—or the discriminatory silverware policy in place at Williams-Sonoma.

Williams-Sonoma makes perhaps the best grapefruit spoon I have ever used. My father and sister, on the other hand, will never be able to use it because for some inexplicable reason, Williams-Sonoma has toothed this spoon on only one side. As a result, southpaws cannot use this spoon without putting themselves through considerable contortions.

I first contacted Williams-Sonoma about this matter in 2005, at which time I noted in my letter to them that their 2004 annual report lamented, “we may not be able to reposition existing brands to improve business” (33). I pointed out to them that a simple re-toothing of the spoon so that both sides are serrated could increase their potential market for that particular product considerably. I never heard back.

Two years later, the spoons are still the same. Narrow and well-proportioned to get every piece of the grapefruit section out, but only if you are right handed. Their 2007 annual report declares, “Our success depends, in large part, upon our ability to anticipate and respond in a timely manner to… customer demands” (10). Well, if you’re a lefty who likes grapefruits or are friend or family to someone who fits that description, let them know that as a customer, you demand citrus equality! Write W. Howard Lester, Chairman of the Board & CEO; and Laura J. Abler, President at Williams-Sonoma, 3520 Van Ness Avenue, San Fransisco, CA 94109.

Cafeteria Glove Choice

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

Hi! I’m a dietary sciences student at the High School of Commerce, and i was wondering why cafeterias use clear gloves to serve food items? What wrong with white gloves?

Actually, it’s what they’re made out of.  The clear gloves are vinyl and the white gloves are latex.  While not as common an allergy as peanuts, there are a certain number of people who react to latex, even if it’s the miniscule amount of the natural rubber that results from food’s momentary contact with a glove.  In order to eliminate the risk, most dining facilities have switched to vinyl gloves.

Have a question about the world of food?  Email me, and I’ll try to respond in a future post.

Kopi Luwak—”Monkey Coffee”

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

Perhaps you’ve already heard about this stuff. It’s such a far-fetched story as to sound implausible, but the truth is, the Kopi Luwak beans are harvested from the droppings of the Asian Palm Civet, a small Indonesian marsupial. The beans cost a small fortune (upwards of $100 a pound on ebay) because they are so rare–only about 500 pounds a year are typically “harvested.” Apparently, though (not that I’ve ever tried the stuff, though if I had the chance, I would), the coffee is outstanding. Either that or it’s a big practical joke to make people drink feces and love it. If you’d like to see a picture of what the beans look like when they come out of the Palm Civet, check out this page.

East End Chocolate Stout Cupcakes from Dozen

Saturday, September 15th, 2007

I discovered a new flavor of Dozen Cupcakes today. I’m not sure how I missed out on it previously, but, damn! is it tasty: a chocolate cupcake featuring Pittsburgh’s own East End Brewing’s Black Strap Stout is covered with chocolate ganache and then a dollop of Bailey’s butter cream frosting. Why hadn’t I visited on a Saturday before? And why wouldn’t my wife let me eat two while we were there?

Actually, the second question has an answer… it’s because I’d already purchased a red velvet cupcake to go for my at-home enjoyment.

For pictures of Dozen’s cupcakes and their full weekly schedule, check out their website at

Man Eating Corn

Thursday, September 13th, 2007

I was lucky enough to be able to leave work a bit early today.  When I got to the corner where I wait to see which of my two buses will get there first, I had some time to sit and wait.  The sun was still high enough in the sky that it beamed down on me from above the buildings.  I sat on the narrow platform at the base of the metal lamppost in my jacket and tie feeling very much the rustic cosmopolitan on my improvised bench.

To complete the ensemble, I reached into my messenger bag to pull out an ear of roasted corn, a leftover from last night’s dinner that I’d neglected to eat at lunch.  I’d not even completed a single row—for that’s how I eat corn, in typewriter rows—when a woman waiting to cross the street turned to me and said, “You tryin’ to share?  “Cause you tearin’ it up.  That’s makin’ my mouth water.”

I hadn’t gotten a third of the way through when a college-aged girl coming in the opposite direction asked me, “Where you get corn on the cob in town?” and was disappointed to hear that I hadn’t.  “Man,” she said, “I want me some.”
I was about halfway done when a third woman whom I’d seen watching me eat from a block away stopped and asked me where I’d bought it.  “I think people would eat that, you know,” she told me, “because that looks good.”

I suggested that maybe she should talk to the hot dog vendor on the next block.  She shook her head, dropped her voice to a whisper and shielded it from the watchful eyes of any lip-reading passersby who might happen to be behind her.  “I wouldn’t eat from him,” she hissed, “He looks pretty dirty.”

As I finished my corn, a mustachioed man in a Kenny Chesney t-shirt paused quickly before hopping into the passenger seat of a red SUV that had pulled over to get him.  He flashed a quick grin my way.  “That sure do look good,” he said, and with that he slammed closed the door and the car was gone.

My one bus came before the other, I saw it approaching from my right.  I quickly tossed the cob back into my bag to take home for my compost and dashed the half block down the street to the stop, arriving slightly after the bus did, but just as its back door was opening.  The man eating corn was no more.

I Invited Some Vegetables Out For Dinner

Sunday, September 9th, 2007

I invited some vegetables out for dinner and a baseball game the other day and they were happy.

…until they learned my true intentions. “You barbaric beast!” they chided me, but I would hear none of it. And neither would they, once I took their ears of corn.

The vegetables huddled together to discuss their options. Being vegetables, they could think of few.

Garlic made a run for it, but he didn’t get very far before I caught him.

I dragged him over hot coals. He gave up his accomplices.

The ones he ratted out made life tough for Garlic on the inside.

The tomatoes and the tomatillos attempted to form an alliance, but their will was soft and they were easily divided.

Their blood was spilt and their rebellion came to nothing, but these poor fruits did not die in vain. The components (cooked, peeled, and chopped to pieces) returned to life as a roasted vegetable salsa that we, in accordance with PNC Park policy brought with us in a soft-sided cooler to the baseball game (dramatization).

Aurora and I relished every moment we spent with the vegetables’ reincarnated self as we cheered the Pirates on to a 6-1 routing of the Cubs.

Free Cloth Napkin Offer—Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

Saturday, September 1st, 2007

I like to reduce wasteful consumption in my life wherever I can. Even a small meal can burn through paper napkins quickly. That’s why I try to carry my own cloth napkin with me—my disposability factor drops substantially when I’m not wasting squares of paper by wiping my grubby paws on them.

Because disposability is a cultural phenomenon, it’s going to take a cultural counter-phenomenon to reverse the tide. Start by carrying your own napkin with you to lunch. If you act now, I’ll provide you with one at absolutely no cost. That’s right, it can be yours for 0 payments of $0.00. Shipping and handling is included. Simply email your name and mailing address to
and if you’re one of the first two dozen people to do so, I’ll send you a cloth napkin for your lunchtime use. These napkins are irregularly sized, but none is smaller than 12 inches square, the approximate size of your standard, 2-ply paper napkin that dissolves under the slightest spill, prompting you to use at least three of them if you need one. Banish that waste from your life forever.

The napkins are sewn from odd pieces left over from Aurora and I having converted her sister’s wedding banquet tablecloths into appropriately-sized tablecloths and napkins for the bride and groom. The edges are serged and should not fray, even under extended use. Under normal circumstances, you should be able to go a whole workweek between washes, and to last for several years.

As such, regular use of the sustainable cloth napkin could easily translate into your keeping more than 2,200 paper squares out of the landfill a year—and that’s just based on it being used at lunches. Use a cloth napkin for breakfasts and dinners, and you can save at least 4,500 paper napkins a year. That means as a group, twenty-five people have the capacity to keep more than 112,000 napkins out of the trash on an annual basis. And that’s just with 25 people… the more converts there are, the less America wastes.

These napkins will be orange in color as soon as I get around to dying them, but otherwise will have no reference to the website… so you don’t have to worry about unwittingly being a marketing tool. However, if your friends and co-workers ask you, “what’s up with the napkin?”, feel free to let them know about the site and encourage them to join the sustainable napkin movement.

I’m not selling anything, and I don’t want your money. I just want people everywhere to waste as little as we possibly can, because as a whole, we waste and throw away way too much. If there are areas where we can reduce our consumption through easy steps, it’s a no-brainer that we should do so.

Please allow 2-4 weeks for delivery.