Sunday with Zin: Literaria – Eggcorns!

Hello I am Zin and I just learned a new literary device: the eggcorn!

I do not think this is strictly speaking a literary device since it is more like a Happy Accident as my idol Bob Ross used to say! It is descriptive of a particular kind of mistake rather than a language tool.

The definition, direct from the A-Word-A-Day:

noun: An erroneous alteration of a word or phrase, by replacing an original word with a similar sounding word, such that the new word or phrase also makes a kind of sense.
For example: “ex-patriot” instead of “expatriate” and “mating name” instead of “maiden name”.

Coined by linguist Geoffrey Pullum (b. 1945) in 2003. From the substitution of the word acorn with eggcorn. Earliest documented use as a name for this phenomenon is from 2003, though the term eggcorn has been found going back as far as 1844, as “egg corn bread” for “acorn bread”.

This week at A-W0rd-A-Day was “Words for Linguistic Errors” and I knew the others like mondegreen and spoonerism but this was a new one! I was very happy to see the “colitis” reference because I spent years back in the days before there was an internet (or for that matter before FM radio was widely used for rock music so you could hear the lyrics better) trying to figure that one out!

When I was a teenager I read a Readers Digest article (yes, I read Readers Digest when I was a teenager, it was what was in the house) that included a long paean to “daunserly light” as sung about in the Star Spangled Banner: “Oh say can you see by the daunserly light…” The author who I do not remember (this was 40 or 45 years ago!) said he knew exactly the quality of that light: it was early dawn, everything was quiet, and the sky was a little pink with morning clouds. That is pretty evocative for something that does not exist!

So I actually knew about eggcorns a long time ago, I just never knew they had a name!

You can get daily emails from A-Word-A-Day with interesting words too! It is free! And they do not pester you with other things. I also get the OED Word of the Day, it is a lot of fun too! Sometimes they will be very common words but usually they come up with things like pogonotomy or pant-hoot.

By the way there is no such thing as a malamanteau (™ Randall Monroe of xkcd) but I think there should be!

Sunday with Zin: Keep Calm and Turn the Page

Keep Calm and Turn the Page!

Keep Calm and Turn the Page!

Hello I am Zin and this is a story that has a sad beginning but a warm and hopeful middle and I believe it will have a happy ending!

You probably know we had a big storm here that started on Friday, February 8 and went for two days. Maine got a record snowfall of 31+ inches! We had the usual problems we have with snow. But Longfellow Books, my Fiercely Independent Community Bookseller, had some extra problems beyond too much snow!

First the storm blew in a window on the second floor of the building above the bookstore and snow blew in and melted and dripped through the ceiling into the bookstore!

Second, the pipes in the building froze!

Third, because the pipes froze, the sprinkler system went off and water sprayed all over the books!

This set off all kinds of alarms but there was a blizzard out there! So it took time for the store owners to get there and I am surprised they were able to, but they were, and the fire department was there already, they had broken in the back and covered some of the books with tarps and were carrying books out of the store to save them! Firemen saving books!

“It was a reverse ‘Fahrenheit 451,'” Bowe said, referring to Ray Bradbury’s 1953 science fiction classic, in which books are outlawed and burned by firemen.

That sounds like a book person!

About half of the 30,000 books were ruined! They hope insurance will pay for most of that but they have also been closed for a week and they expect to be open only sporadically for at least another week!

But like the sign in the window says: Keep Calm and Turn the Page.

That sounds like a book person, too!

This bookstore was voted Portland Icon in 2012 so Portland is helping! The Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance has arranged two events and a third way to help:

First, a Cash Mob on Saturday, March 2, for people to show up at the store and buy books! They can also buy Great Flood 2013 Gift Certificates for later on if they do not need any books right now! I know I am going to need some books later this year so I think I will get one!

Second, a Panel Discussion at the wonderful SPACE Gallery on Sunday, March 3: FLOODED: An Outpouring of Literary Conversation in Support of Longfellow Books! Richard Russo and Monica Wood will talk about memoir, and Ron Currie Jr. and Bill Roorbach will talk about fiction – all Maine writers, all who have given readings and talks at the bookstore in the past, three of them I have read, two of them appear in this blog! I have my ticket already! I bought it when I got the email announcing the event! And it is a good thing because three days later it is sold out!

Third, MWPA is collecting donations by PayPal and check until March 15!

It sounds crazy to give a donation to a private business but a retail business especially one as tenuous as a bookstore that must close for two weeks needs help and they are part of the community and hold so many wonderful events for free we must do something! The bookstore has been getting calls and Facebook queries asking how people can help so now they have three concrete ways to help!

The two owners Chris Bowe and Stuart Gerson were employees at Bookland (I did not know that) which was the bookstore that went out of business 13 years ago (I remember that) when Borders opened in South Portland so look who is still standing! They have held it together this long and they are not going to let a storm get in the way:

“Never underestimate the power of an independent bookstore,” [Bowe] said. “We have survived the chains. We have survived Amazon. We have survived the Kindles. The bookstore is one of those good places in the community. We will struggle, but we will get there.”

Again that sounds like a book person and I believe him!

Sunday with Zin: Euphony

Hello I am Zin and you never know where devices will take you!

What do you think is the most beautiful English word? Love? Money? Mellifluous?

How about cellar-door?

No, I am not crazy! Well, of course I am, but not about this! Cellar-door (and we will allow it as a single hyphenated word to keep things simple) is often cited as the best example of euphony which is the Device of the Day: when words have a pleasing sound!

My search for euphony led to an "On Language" column "Cellar Door” by Grant Barrett from February 11, 2010, and to the cellar-door. It seems this is a famous decision, to name this unassuming phrase the fairest of them all, and a dubious one at that! At least I think so! But they are talking about purely sound, not meaning!

Mr. Barrett in his wonderful article traces the history of the rise of cellar-door to its position of prominence. And it takes some peculiar turns: from H. L. Mencken in 1920 to Dorothy Parker in 1932 to J. R. R. Tolkien in 1955 to the 2001 movie Donnie Darko where a teacher tells Donnie (a crazy teenager with a psychotic imaginary rabbit friend):

This famous linguist once said that of all the phrases in the English language, of all the endless combinations of words in all of history, that ‘cellar door’ is the most beautiful.”

But what famous linguist said this????

No one! The earliest reference Barrett found was a 1903 novel, Gee-Boy by Shakespeare scholar Cyrus Lauron Hooper:

He even grew to like sounds unassociated with their meaning, and once made a list of the words he loved most, as doubloon, squadron, thatch, fanfare (he never did know the meaning of this one), Sphinx, pimpernel, Caliban, Setebos, Carib, susurro, torquet, Jungfrau. He was laughed at by a friend, but logic was his as well as sentiment; an Italian savant maintained that the most beautiful combination of English sounds was cellar-door; no association of ideas here to help out! sensuous impression merely! the cellar-door is purely American.

Now wait just a minute here: does this mean that truly brilliant people like Mencken and Parker and Tolkien have been taking the word of a fictional Italian savant? Or did Cooper take it from a source that has been lost to history? I can not even find any information about Mr. (or Dr.? I do not wish to be rude or improper but I do not know!) Hooper, other than a number of editions of Shakespearean plays he edited in the early 20th century! Maybe he made the whole thing up as a joke!

I suppose we will have to wait until we find a cellar-door portal to another time dimension! Until then, the Cellar Door Theatre Company in London will have to keep the flame alive!

Sunday with Zin: Un-STRIPPED!

Hello I am Zin and we all were UNSTRIPPED on February 1!

Rewind: last summer my friend Jeanne Holtzman (hi, Jeanne!) sent me a copy of STRIPPED, an anthology with a twist! The names of the authors were stripped from the stories! Editor Nicole Monaghan hoped readers would investigate whether they could tell if the writers were male or female.

I read the book and did some work to post some background about the project, and a table of my opinion, and that of two online gender analzyers! And now Nicole has posted The Big Reveal matching up stories and authors!

Here is the good news: I did better than the computers! Score one for people!

Here is the not-so-good-news: I still did very badly!

Overall I guessed correctly on 29 out of 47 stories, for a score of 62%. That is only a little better than random guessing which would have been 50%.

The computers did not even hit 50%: Stevens Institute got 20 of 47 (43%) and the Gender Genie got 23 of 47, or 49%! Ok, I guess you could say Gender Genie hit the 50/50 mark. And Stevens came close.

I will talk more about numbers but first I want to talk about the stories because I was surprised by some of them! Many I just guessed on, but some I was pretty sure, and I was pretty sure of a couple of authors as well, and I was usually wrong, wrong, wrong! I will put the three evaluations (Zin, Stevens, Gender Genie) in parens, and when I say “we” it means me and the computers in this case. for the stories that are available online, either as text or in a video of a reading, I will make the title clickable.

The “IT” section: Editor Nicole Monaghan said, ” The stories I put in “It” were ones I felt either had objects as their center or used an inanimate thing to reveal the desire(s) of the character(s) and motivation(s) of the character(s).”

“Boy-Girl” – Sara Lippmann (F) (MMM): In my notes I wrote, “Male style, female content” and I am not sure what I meant by that! I could not tell if the narrator was male or female, and it is a story about the “poly-gender parade” and “neuter people” and she fooled all three of us so I think she did an excellent job!

Found Objects” by Tara L. Masih (F) (FMF): This was one of my favorites and I felt it had a clearly female sensibility (even though I am not sure what I mean by “female sensibility”). The protagonist is male, or perhaps in a larger sense the protagonist is the house and “he” is just the most predominant person! I do not think I have read anything else by this author, though I know the name, so I will have to make sure to look for her work!

The Bear” by Len Kuntz (M) (FMF): In this story the female protagonist, in a uniquely female situation, must make a terrible choice, and it read very authentically to me! Len did a great job!

“Moratorium” by Sean Lovelace (M) (MMM): I loved this story! It reminds me of some of the flash Courtney Bledsoe wrote a few years ago. We all agreed the writer was male, but here is the twist: until I saw the list Nicole put up, I had thought Sean Lovelace was female! I think I may be mixing him up with another Sean! The narrator/protagonist could be either male or female, but I got a very clear sense it was a man swearing off women.

Afterglow” by Michelle Reale (F) (MFM): I am not sure why I thought this was male, as I reread it I clearly get female, but that is hindsight for you! It is easy to know the answers once you know the answers!

Marooned in a Borrowed Mansion” by Kierstin Bridger (F) (FMM): I was the only one who got this right! I am glad because I liked this story a lot! As I read it the first time I thought the narrator was female but then at the end it becomes clear he is male but that might have affected my vote. A house again is at the center of the piece. Houses are interesting characters! I need to consider that more!

“Cisco” by Darlin’ Neal (F) (FMF): I liked the very clear focus of this story. The narrator could be either but I thought he was male, still I thought it had that undefinable female sensibility to it.

Sculpted” by Rae Bryant (F) (FMF): I thought the erotic elements read feminine, and I am happy to see I was right! I think the narrator is female but not necessarily.

“A Conservator In The National Museum of American History Rigged Into a Suspended Harness Floats Inches Above the Star-Spangled Banner” by Michael Martone (M) (MMM): The story is only five words longer than the title! I love that! I was sure either Randall Brown or Robert Swartwood wrote this, but I was wrong. I need to find out more about Michael Martone! There is no reason the narrator could not be female, but it read strongly male to me.

“HER” – stories where a female character is at the heart of the piece.

“Momma” by Casey Hannan (M) (MMF): I am not sure why I read this as male, maybe it was all the blood and the knife and Dracula. It is a very female story though. And a good one!

“Behind the Eight-Ball” by Robert Vaughan (M) (FFM): I went back and forth on this so I am not surprised I got it wrong! It started very male, but the issues were so female I changed my mind.

” The Distance Between the Bridge and the Water” by Will Henderson (M) (FFF): He fooled us all! The female protagonist comes through very strongly! Excellent job!

“Santa Caterina” by Christopher Allen (M) (FFF): Again we were all fooled! I am surprised! This protagonist was really well-written as a very specific woman. Great job!

” Jericho Beach” by Gay Degani (F) (MMF): I know Gay a little from Zoetrope and from Smokelong so I am happy that she fooled me!

“Chips from the Broken Sky” by Ethel Rohan (F) (FFF): It is a beautiful story and something about the banana felt like such a thing a woman would think of!

“Rosalia” by Gill Hoffs (F) (FFM): I went back and forth on the gender of the writer but I was entranced by this story! It seems to hang perilously close to a “trick” ending that we all get scolded for, but I think it is not, the issue goes deeper than the one detail, it is a matter of what one believes rather than fact. I do not want to spoil the story by being more specific but it is very impressive! I even looked up Gill to make sure the “F” was not a little mistake and sure enough Gillian is female! So even after I knew I wanted to check!

“Seven Happy Endings” by Ashley Inguanta (F) (MFF): Here is where the computers had an advantage over me, just looking at language without actually reading! I thought the sexual elements and the humor read more male than female, but I was wrong!

“Gorgo, Queen of Sparta” by Aubrey Hirsch (F) (FFF): Historical flash, maybe a new thing!

“Eruptions” by Heather Fowler (F) (MFF): Oops! My bad!

“Go Deejay” by Roxane Gay (F) (FMF): At the time I read this I had not read any fiction by Roxane, only her essays. I am glad I got it right! “I decided to become the girl I normally hate” was my clue.

The Turn” by Marc Schuster (M) (MNF): I was surprised this was not in the “Them” category since the reaction of the man felt so strong to me, even though the main character is the woman. It is a very interesting story!

“Porch Light” by Sherrie Flick (F) (FFF): Again we all agreed and we were all right!

“Love Letter” by Kerri D. Schuster (F) (FFF): And again!

HIM: the focus is on a male character

“Limp” by Sheldon Lee Compton (M) (MMM): I liked this, and I felt sorry for the narrator!

“Almost Ivory” by Randall Brown (M) (FNF): I would never have guessed this was a Randall story! Even though the main character is male, I think the female character is so strong and well-written it became to me a “female” story. Or maybe I just paid more attention to the female character!

“Life Without Operas” by Peter Schwartz (M) (MMF): I think I read this as male because I did not really follow it but liked the structure! This is my habit of thinking of experimental writing as more male, and I need to stop that!

Grover Cleveland Has It Out With America On the Eve Of His Second Inauguration” by Amber Sparks (F) (MMM): Amber fooled us all! I have enjoyed several of her flashes and I need to get my hands on May We Shed These Human Bodies! This is such a wonderful story and she did a terrific job of writing not only a male but a historical, powerful male and still incorporating a lyric by Don McLean which not everyone will realize! When I read this I immediately thought of Jeff Rose because he sometimes writes about historical characters in a way that is totally authentic but very human but he was not on the list of authors so I knew it was not him but I could see him writing this!

Jerry’s Life as sung to ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’” by Kenneth Pobo (M) (MMF): What an interesting idea! I have such a visceral negative reaction to the song (which was very popular in my youth and was decried by the people I was hanging out with at the time as being the epitome of raunchiness, which shows you why I stopped hanging out with them) I had trouble reading the story!

Dog Beach” Jess Charest (F) (FMM): I got a little mixed up in here so I am surprised I got it right!

“Give Me License” by Nicole Monaghan (F) (FNF): Nicole is the editor of the collection so I am glad I guessed her story right!

“What Is Best In Life?” by Erin Fitzgerald (F) (FNF): I thought this would turn out to be written by Ellen Parker since it just seemed like something she would do so I got it right for the wrong reason!

“Hard” by Jeanne Holtzman (F) (FMF): Jeanne is the writer who gave me the book in the first place so I am glad I guessed her story!

“And the One Guy Turns to the Other and Says, ‘I’ll Trade You Mine for Yours'” by Tara Laskowski (F) (MMM): I know Tara from the Flash Factory on Zoetrope and from Smokelong so I am very happy she fooled us all! This is a very male story! Great job!

Sniffing Out The Boundaries” by Eric Bosse (M) (FMF): I was very surprised to find this was written by a male but when I look at it I am not sure why, I suppose because it involves children! I really need to keep an eye on my assumptions!

“One More Thing I Didn’t Do” by Ellen Parker (F) (MFM): I love Ellen Parker so I am glad she fooled me writing a male voice! Good job Ellen!

Beasts and Men” by Curtis Smith (M) (FMM): Here I was too smart for my own good and that is not something I am often! I thought this was a counterreaction and a woman wrote the most masculine elements she could think of into a story to fool us! So I was fooled instead!

The Taster’s Last Meal” by Devan Goldstein (M) (FFF): This was a wonderful flash that fooled us all with the subtle emotional element and themes of love and loyalty and betrayal!

THEM – Nicole placed stories in this section if they “gave a hard look into both male and female perspectives or struck me as portraying their characters as connecting as humans, with gender being less of a focus.”

“Breaking Tradition” by Nathan Alling Long (M) (FFF): Again I think I was fooled by a child character! I love the play on the word “break” it is a very interesting word linguistically speaking and Nathan has made great use of it!

“The Ballad of This and That” by Robert Swartwood (M) (MNM): When I posted about this story last summer, I said this was “a very Zin story” and it is, it is the Zinnest story in the book, so I am very happy to find it was written by the “inventor” of “hint fiction!” And surprised! But mostly happy!

“Locked” by Myfanwy Collins (F) (FMM): I enjoyed this story about religion and I am surprised that the computers read it as male because to me it was very female.

Waffles and Honey” by J. Bradley (M) (MMF): I thought this was written by Randall Brown! I was wrong! It has that enigmatic echo where the words just feel right.

“Circling the Flame” by Meg Tuite (F) (FNM): I think this would depend on which character you identify with and I went back and forth on it several times! I got it right by luck!

“The Breaking Heart of God” by Rusty Barnes (M) (FFF): Again I read a powerfully emotional story as female! Good for you Rusty!

“Lies” by Pamela Painter (F) (FMF): Now that I reread this, I am surprised I thought it was female since it has mechanics I would think of as male. Well, I should not complain since I got it right but I am not sure why!

“Emergency” by Mark Nieson (M) (MMM): I loved this story! It is written in the form of a medical chart but the end really works! It is a story that lets the reader write the story!

Let’s Get Together Again Soon” by Scott Garson (M) (MFF): Scott is a hero of the online flash community for the annual Wigleaf Top 50 List (and Wigleaf just got their first Pushcart Prize, congratulations!) so I was very happy that I enjoyed his story so much.

Akimbo” by Kathy Fish (F) (FMF): An earthquake through a different point of view! This has some wonderful images and is very sad!

Here is a chart with all the data from last time, with the names of the authors added in. Correct guesses are in red! I am not sure what to make of all this data (if anyone understands statistical analysis I would love a consult)! I do not see any particular patters, other than the computers did particularly poorly on stories in the “Them” section. I looked at stories we all agreed on: sometimes we were all right, sometimes all wrong!

This was a fantastic project! More than anything else it has reminded me that we all have underlying attitudes and we need to understand them and recognize them so we know when they are misleading us! And that good writers can write characters who are different from them because that is what writers do! But we knew that already, yes? If you want to know more about how they do it, four participants, still anonymous, discussed the project and how they write in the opposite gender at Necessary Fiction.

Title Author (M/F) Zin Stvns GG GG-f GG-m Stv% GG% #wds
Boy-Girl Sara Lippmann (F) M M M 571 701 61 55 616
Found Objects Tara L. Masih (F) F M F 390 314 63 55 356
The Bear Len Kuntz (M) F M F 447 410 57 52 259
Moratorium Sean Lovelace (M) M M M 146 492 72 77 256
Afterglow Michelle Reale (F) M F M 528 721 53 58 435
Marooned in a Borrowed Mansion Kierstin Bridger (F) F M M 593 760 54 56 574
Cisco Darlin’ Neal (F) F M F 243 182 62 57 244
Sculpted Rae Bryant (F) F M F 445 214 60 68 232
A Conservator… Michael Martone (M) M M M 0 30 59 100 27
Title Author (M/F) Zin Stvns GG GG-f GG-m Stv% GG% #wds
Momma Casey Hannan (M) M M F 690 593 62 54 442
Behind the Eight-Ball Robert Vaughan (M) F F M 475 520 68 52 429
The Distance Betw the Bridge & The River Will Henderson (M) F F F 972 769 66 56 500
Santa Caterina Christopher Allen (M) F F F 911 707 68 56 612
Jericho Beach Gay Degani (F) M M F 1016 898 65 53 598
Chips From the Broken Sky Ethel Rohan (F) F F F 975 574 67 63 607
Rosalia Gill Hoffs (F) F F M 632 701 69 53 601
Seven Happy Endings Ashley Inguanta (F) M F F 888 511 55 63 620
Gorgo, Queen of Sparta Aubrey Hirsch (F) F F F 1030 865 71 54 610
Eruptions Heather Fowler (F) M F F 760 538 91 59 580
Go Deejay Roxane Gay (F) F M F 812 642 78 56 608
The Turn Marc Schuster (M) M N F 810 392 96 67 294
Porch Light Sherrie Flick (F) F F F 500 204 52 71 277
Love Letter Kerri D. Schuster (F) F F F 801 612 73 57 454
Title Author (M/F) Zin Stvns GG GG-f GG-m Stv% GG% #wds
Limp Sheldon Lee Compton (M) M M M 130 197 60 100
Almost Ivory Randall Brown (M) F N F 545 438 96 55 497
Life Without Operas Peter Schwartz (M) M M F 248 191 58 56 218
Grover Cleveland… Amber Sparks (F) M M M 380 447 64 54 371
Jerry’s Life… Kenneth Pobo (M) M M F 1032 741 60 58 601
Dog Beach Jess Charest (F) F M M 459 760 92 62 510
Give Me License Nicole Monaghan (F) F N F 867 632 96 58 577
What Is Best In Life? Erin Fitzgerald (F) F N F 764 661 97 54 579
Hard Jeane Holtzman (F) F M F 1504 567 67 73 623
And The One Guy Turns… Tara Laskowski (F) M M M 485 742 59 60 685
Sniffing Out the Boundaries Eric Bosse (M) F M F 215 83 60 72 124
One More Thing I Didn’t Do Ellen Parker (F) M F M 562 685 54 55 618
Beasts and Men Curtis Smith (M) F M M 548 687 82 56 591
The Taster’s Last Meal Devan Goldstein (M) F F F 721 668 57 52 618
Title Author (M/F) Zin Stvns GG GG-f GG-m Stv% GG% #wds
Breaking Tradition Nathan Alling Long (M) F F F 1019 604 61 63 615
The Ballad of This and That Robert Swartwood (M) M N M 407 564 96 58 439
Locked Myfanwy Collins (F) F M M 282 610 63 68 391
Waffles and Honey J. Bradley (M) M M F 339 131 66 72 92
Circling the Flame Meg Tuite (F) F N M 549 577 100 51 403
The Breaking Heart of God Rusty Barnes (M) F F F 606 472 58 56 514
Lies Pamela Painter (F) F M F 623 345 59 64 231
Emergency Mark Nieson (M) M M M 9 23 52 72 99
Let’s Get Together Again Soon Scott Garson (M) M F F 502 222 54 69 201
Akimbo Kathy Fish (F) F M F 228 152 59 60 230

Sunday with Zin: Literaria, Part 1

Hello I am Zin and I have been left to my own Literary Devices!

I am very Aristotelian! I like classifications! Organization! That may seem strange because
I seem so disorganized but I am fond of little boxes and spaces where everything fits even if those boxes and spaces are of odd shapes and live in alternate dimensions!

So of course I love literary terms! All those categories! Each nicely defined! And Latinate (or Greekinate) names for them all! I have talked about apostrophe quite a bit in connection with my Second Person Study (which is not all mine any more, sigh) but there are so many more to have fun with!

I was inspired to do this now by several things. First: in December Jeff Rose on Zoetrope wrote a humorous story that mentioned a character reading a fictional “French’s Tongue-In-Cheek Guide To Literary Devices” and I so want him to write this Guide, sort of like Ambrose Bierce and his Devil’s Dictionary but for Literary Devices! Jeff is a very funny writer!

Then just a couple of days ago, my flash-idol Randall Brown posted about his favorite literary device, aralipsis, on I did not even know there was a word for this structure! Then I discovered there is another word for it, paralipsis so imagine! I now have two words for something I never knew had even one name before!

So I thought, I need to bone up on my Literary Devices! I used to know a lot of them but that was a long time ago and I have forgotten. You can follow along! Impress your friends with words like Adynaton and Metonymy! Sure everyone knows about hyperbole and verisimilitude, but have they heard of Hapax legomenon? In fact I will start there!

Hapax legomenon is not really a literary device! I started the Second Person Study with a story that was not in second person , so I will start here with what is actually a description, not a tool, and I may include other literary terms that are not devices in this Literaria category! Maybe my Aristotelianism needs some fine-tuning! A hapax legomenon is means a word that is only used once in the whole record of a language, or sometimes in the entire body of work or an author, or even in a single text. So it is what would be the tiniest word you get when you do a Wordle! It is a big deal to those who investigate dead languages because the best way to discover the meaning of a word is to see it used in different ways and a hapax does not let you do that! The phrase itself is from the Greek and literally means “a thing said once.”

We must, each of us for himself, decide what in it represents the best in usage–and what is merely a corruption that has become more or less widespread or is, indeed, a mere hapax legomenon..

— John Simon, Paradigms Lost

It also happens to be the title of the Swarthmore College Classics Journal, a book of poetry by Ivan Argüelles, and several blogs. It is too bad I will not be adopting any more cats because I think it would make a wonderful pet name!

If you have a favorite literary term let me know and I will be sure to include it!

Sunday with Zin: Best-Sellers!

Hello I am Zin and my Fiercely Independent Community Bookstore just posted their list of Best Selling Books of 2012!

logo-transThe Publishers Weekly list had – guess what! – Fifty Shades of Gray and The Hunger Games in top spots across the board and they even said, ” Half of the top 20 bestselling books of 2012 in print were either Fifty Shades titles or Hunger Games titles.” That really confused me – how can two books get ten spots? – but I am easily confused, and both of those had three titles each and also came in a boxed set, plus three separate editions of The Hunger Games (paperback, hardcover, and movie-tie-in edition, for the love of god, we have come a long way since Love Story which was the must-have book/movie of my youth).

But the #1 Best Sellling Book at Longfellow Books of Portland, Maine was… When We Were the Kennedys which made me very happy since I went to her reading at the library last summer! She also did a signing at the bookstore I think, and she is local and the book is set in Maine and is about her growing up in a mill town after the paper mill shut down, and there is something interesting about a best-selling book about paper mills shutting down! And by the way do you know who supplies the paper for Fifty Shades of Grey?

The second book on the list, The High Skies Adventure of Blue Jay the Pirate, is also by a Maine author! It is a book for children of course, and I am very happy for Scott Nash, the author and illustrator, as well since he lives in Portland (Peaks Island) and teaches at the local art college!

There were many other local books of course and some oddball stuff (the Portland Bike Map was #13) but a lot of literary fiction showed up on the list, like The Tiger’s Wife and The Art of Fielding and even Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes and Telegraph Avenue and Cheryl Strayed did very well making the list twice with both of her books!

How did your local bookstore do?

Sunday with Zin: Puppet Opera

puppets finale

Hello I am Zin and I love opera! And I love puppets! So what could be better than a puppet opera?

Paper Bull Puppets and VOX Maine put on Hansel and Gretel this year! I did not attend the formal performance where they had live singers and a pianist but they did excerpts at the library and even though it was announced as a Children’s Event, it was ok for adults to go! So I was able to see it! It was really wonderful! It was something like a dress rehearsal for them with all the scenery and the shadow work and it was lovely! They did the beautiful “Evening Prayer” scene which was really lovely! Unfortunately Hansel’s head came off at the end of the first excerpt so they had to repair him during intermission but one of the guys came out and had us singing and he talked about opera and puppets, so it was just fine!

They do not use hand puppets or marionettes, but bunraki, a traditional Japanese theater that uses hand-guided puppets! Two or three people, dressed in black, handle the puppets, one the head and body, one the arms and one the feet! It kind of looks like they are taking care of an injured child because they are all gathered around these three-foot-tall puppets but after a while I stopped noticing the people and just looked at the puppets!

puppets closeupI went to the library early to browse the Edward Gorey display again and maybe find some new thing to read and in the lobby were Hansel and Gretel! It was so cool, the puppet handlers had them sitting on the fountain and they just were trying to generate some interest so they let me take a short video and some pictures! There was a lady telling the puppets not to fight and I wanted her to be quiet but she kept telling them to kiss and make up and they did! Then the puppet handlers talked to us for a while and while they were talking Hansel and Gretel’s heads were moving like they were looking around, and Hansel poked Gretel and pointed to something in the commissary, it was really quite good, they made those puppets look alive even when they were talking to us!

puppets headerI did not know this before I went to see the show but it is very appropriate that Hansel and Gretel is a puppet opera because that is how it was written! He wrote a few songs for a puppet show his nieces were doing, then he wrote a few more and a few more and suddenly he had the whole story as an opera! It is frequently performed this way in fact!

Thank you Paper Bull Puppets and VOX Maine (and Portland Public Library) and I hope you do another show soon!

Sunday with Zin: Illustrations

Sharon McGill

Sharon McGill

Hello I am Zin and I am so impressed with story illustrators and how they capture a story! How do they do that? At last I have some answers!

I love looking for art to go with blog posts! But I can not draw! I can not photograph! I can not use Paint! So I have to search for things that comes close to what I see in my head, and it is not easy (and it is sometimes scary)! Sometimes I am very lucky, like with “Shrimp Attack” for a Next Iron Chef episode recap – who knew someone had painted a picture with that exact title which are words one of the NIC contestants said? I did a Google image search and there it was, the perfect art! I used themes once upon a time, black and white pictures, black and white baby pictures, and for the Second Person Study, black and white twin baby pictures! I am not sure I could cope with a blank slate, though, creating something from scratch!

And that is my question today: how to artists come up with illustrations for stories when they start only with the text?

I am not talking cover art for books, which is also very interesting and maybe I will write about that some day! But that has a lot to do with marketing, so it is more complicated! And it has to incorporate the title and the author which story illustrations do not. I am focusing on story illustrations like those that appear in The New Yorker and in online magazines!

I always pay attention to TNY illustrations to see what scene they incorporate. Some seem perfect! Like what Victo Ngai chose for “Casserole” by Thomas McGuane, the woman looking over the edge of the boat.

And some puzzle me, like the choice the same artist made for “Sweet Dreams” by Peter Stamm! It was another wonderful story (I nominated it as one of my picks for best TNY story of the year at Perpetual Folly, the blog Cliff Garstang runs) but there were so many images that seemed more striking to me, I was surprised that was the one she chose! This has nothing to do with the style of her art, by the way (which is beautiful), and I always wonder if someone at TNY or maybe even the author has any input or if it is 100% up to the artist.

Tomer Hanuka showed a tiny bit of behind the scenes development and wrote a tiny bit about the role of the Art Director in his blog post about his illustration for the wonderful story “Means of Suppressing Demonstrations” (I also nominated this for TNY-SotY) but he says the process varies!

When I saw Richard Russo and his daughter Kate talk at the library I was really interested in what she said about the art she created for the stories in Interventions! For “Horseman” she read the story then put it aside to see what would stick. She kept thinking of the poem, and wanted to draw the horse from the point of view of the rider, which is pretty clever!

Then again with “The Whore’s Child” she was struck by the paragraph about the girl being given shoes two sizes too small that crippled her, and she used the black and white of tiles and saddle shoes to echo the habits nuns wear! It is interesting she also thought of blood in connection with “High and Dry.”

I love these thought processes! But I want to hear more! I need to talk to more artists!

So I was very happy when I recently stumbled over Sharon McGill on the Information Superhighway! I am surprised I had not stumbled over her before, she has a wonderful story on Smokelong #35 from last March titled “Benediction” which I have added to the Online Fiction Sampler page!

But that is not all! I discovered Sharon is on Zoetrope Virtual Studios! She is a story illustrator as well as a writer! She did the illustration for her story! And best of all she answered my questions about illustrating a story when I sent her a z-mail!

Sharon has a terrific blog post about the process of illustrating her own story “Benediction“: the conflict between the Writer – who saw the story as taking place under a dull grey sky – and the Illustrator – who wanted bright hot stark sunlight for lots of shadows and angles! It did not make it any easier that the Writer and the Illustrator were both her! And then she realized the Illustrator had “plagiarized” the hot sun and the junkyard from a novel the Writer was working on! It is a wonderful little flash all in itself, the story of this illustration! I love the duality of her arguing with herself! I can understand that!

But I kept asking why that opening scene? The end, with the man in gold, is so dramatic! Is there something like a spoiler rule in illustrating? And here is what she told me:

I tend to pick something that pops out to me and which I feel has the drama, intrigue, and/or immediacy to pull someone into a story. In this case, I think what also happened was that, as a writer I could see this dreary, low sky, but the moment I started actually thinking about drawing it, I knew that would look too flat. There had to be a strong light source. I was also influenced by the editor who selected the story–she said she really loved the opening line. Since I had worked on it a lot, it had a lot of importance to me, too.

I agree that the final scene is pretty dramatic, but I didn’t want to give it away. Also, it’s one of those scenes that I wanted to have exist only in the reader’s mind. I actually got the idea from a guy who wore a costume of gold leaf to a party and the gold kept falling off. He looked kind of scabby, which was a bit gross and not the image I wanted to leave the reader with (!). I figured it would be very hard to depict that kind of figure without it looking totally goofy.

I see – yes, I had a discussion with someone about writing once in which we talked about forcing the reader into a chair when he maybe wants to dance, so it is the same with illustrating, you have to allow some freedom for reader interpretation!

Sharon also illustrated another Smokelong story in that issue, “Everyone Continued to Sing” by Josh Denlow. And she has another wonderful post on her blog explaining “the juxtaposition of the sacred and profane” as well as some more technical art elements like not using outlines for this picture!

I am so thankful to Sharon for taking the time to email back and forth! I am always glad when I learn something! And now I am following her blog so I can learn more about how illustrators think!

This has inspired me to talk to some more people, like art editors at online magazines about how they choose art for stories! So I hope I will have a Part 2 for this post in the future!

Sunday with Zin: Construction Art

The building is being renovated to become the Preble Street Resource Center’s new Joe Kreisler Teen Shelter. But the mural is actually a collaboration between Wright-Ryan Construction and this year’s freshman class at the Maine College of Art.

LiveWorkPortland, 10/1/12

Hello I am Zin and this is the prettiest construction site I have ever seen! And it is right down the street from me!

The art panels suddenly appeared on the construction wall this summer! The construction company had to build a false facade so they could do the renovation of the street level, and they decided it would be nice to have something pretty instead of just ugly old plywood!

And it just so happens the Maine College of Art (MECA) has a Public Engagement program intended to get students to “take action as citizens, artists and designers. As a result, each student gains the entrepreneurial skills and confidence to directly impact their culture and society during and after college.”

So they joined forces and the freshmen at MECA painted the panels to represent all the different nationalities of students at Portland High School!

After a group brainstorming session, the students were divided into groups of two, each of which was assigned a letter, as well as a language commonly spoken in Portland to act as a visual prompt for the painting of their letter. The mural is divided into 4’ x 4’ squares, each containing one letter, and the individual artworks that developed around each of these letters is based on the students’ extensive research into the visual language of the assigned cultures.

It is gone now, in early December they took it down since the building will open soon and the building is now glass and brick, but the construction wall was very beautiful and I was happy to see it every day when I went out! I will miss it but I will remember it every time I walk past the building! That is what art is for even if it is temporary!

Extra: Christmas Eve A Capella with Zin!

Hello I am Zin! Christmas is a time of hope and peace! Here is an a capella Mini Concert – all kinds of a capella from all kinds of groups in all kinds of places – to lift spirits!

Yesu Nafyalwa( Jesus Is Born) – Zambian Vocal Group (Zambian group, Zambian song!)

Oh The Holly She Bears a Berry by The Voice Squad (Irish group, Irish folk song!)

Christmastime is Here by AfroBlue (the Charlie Brown song!)

Silent Night by Boyz II Men

Merry Christmas (or happy holiday of your choice, or just have a very nice Tuesday) to everyone!

Next Iron Chef: Redemption (2012) – Episode 8, Passion; Respect

Brock Davis: "Broccoli House"

Brock Davis: “Broccoli House”

Hello I am Zin and guess what! Everyone wants to win!

First: Passion

Alex, Amanda, and Nate gather for their Last Supper in Las Vegas! Again the Last Supper, I am tired of Last Suppers, it was funny when Top Chef did it with people like Wylie Dufresne and Jacques Pepin but who cares what Zakarian and Donatella and Simon want for their last meals! And it shows! Because someone wants Haddock! Haddock? What kind of last meal is Haddock? And chicken! Farm chicken, as opposed to… factory chicken? They did not say free-range or cage-free, just farm chicken, and no matter how you feel about the Perdue method they are still called farms! Then there is Sea Urchin which at least is something I do not have in my freezer! The sad thing is they have to show their passion for these ingredients, but who can have passion for haddock?

I thought something was up with this, like the judges would turn out to be two kids who picked the chicken and haddock, but that was not it! The chefs do not know who asked for which ingredient when they cook! They pick envelopes so they do not know what they are getting!

Amanda picks Farm Chicken. She says her nickname is Chicken! I do not believe her! If anyone called me Chicken I would be insulted! Her favorite part of the chicken is the crispy skin, so she breads the thigh skin and deep-fries it! She calls her dish Lusty Lemon Roasted Chicken and serves it with lemon ricotta made with schmaltz (rendered chicken fat), braised dark meat, and roasted vegetables. Zakarian chose the ingredient for his last meal (I do not believe this!), and he thinks she pushed it just enough with the lemon and parmesan, and the chicken is cooked just right. Donatella calls it spectacular! It is seasoned perfectly, the veggies are luscious and she loves the ricotta! Simon also says it is cooked to perfection, the jus had depth, and it is one of the best dishes in the entire competition! Oh come on it is roast chicken! Roast chicken is a wonderful thing, one of my favorite meals in fact, but they are being silly!

Nate picks haddock! Poor Nate, he does not really have a passion for haddock (I love him for that), but he does love clam chowder so he starts from there, with bacon and potatoes and great big clams, and serves poached haddock and clam chowder with parsley buttered crumb topping to remind them of oyster crackers. It turns out it was the ingredient Simon is said to have chosen (no way!) and he was thinking fish & chips but the fish is poached perfectly and the broth is terrific! He does think the clams are a bit of a mistake, they are chewy and did not add much to the dish, and there is not enough smoky flavor. Donatella is not a big fan of haddock but she likes this, especially the parsley crumbs! Zakarian calls it the essence of fish cooked properly, and it brings back memories.

Alex draws Sea Urchin, Alex Under the Giant Sea Urchinwhich seems way too upscale for a last meal, but it turns out it was from Donatella so I believe it, she is the type who would pick the most expensive thing just because! There is so much room between haddock and sea urchin! Alex makes corn flan in the sea urchin shell with Brussels sprouts and roasted sunchokes, and a foam of sea urchin, lemon, and butter which is a departure from her typical style but she used it to represent the foam of the ocean! She thinks it represents her growth as a chef, but then she worries it is too esoteric, which is hilarious that Iron Chefs are now worried about being esoteric! In the judging room she worries because she is standing under a giant sea urchin! I did not notice, was Amanda under a giant chicken? That would be a dangerous place to be! Donatella was worried about the foam but it actually enhanced the dish. Zakarian thinks the custard could be more custardy! Simon likes the combination of sweet and briny, but wishes there were more lemon in the foam!

Amanda and Alex go to Kitchen Stadium! Nate disappears from the NIC universe!

So the persistent rumors of the Save card were wrong! I have to admit I had hopes until that moment that Falkner, or even Marcel, would be back and rescue us from complete boredom! I am glad there will be another woman in Kitchen Stadium, but does it have to be one of these women? Could they not find a real chef? I heard Naomi Pomeroy was moving to NY!

Kitchen Stadium: Battle Respect

The chefs are faced with a whole table of ingredients chosen by current Iron Chefs to represent their cuisines! Bobby Flay has selected things like corn, avocado, lime, and chilis, for Southwest cuisine; Michael Symon does Mediterranean food, so eggplant and olives represent him; Morimoto has Japanese ingredient like miso, daikon, wasabi, panko, and ponzu! They keep trying to squeeze in a product placement brand but I will not cooperate! The competitors must choose two from each group and make three dishes, an appetizer, an entrée, and a dessert! This is like Chopped except you pick your own basket! Bobby, Symon (with a “y”) and Morimoto will join the usual judges on the panel!

Each chef gets two sous chefs, and guess who shows up for Alex, it is Ashley Harriman from Top Chef! She is the woman who was offended at having to do a Bachelor/ette party because she was not able to get married due to Prop 8! Did I know she worked for Alex when she was on TCS6? It is nice to see her! I do not know when this was filmed, but she has not worked for Alex since April! But I do not think it matters, because TC5 Ariane Duarte (she won the Today show gig for putting tomatoes and watermelon on the same plate) was sous for Amanda, as she was few years ago when Amanda was a challenger, and she does not work for Amanda! They do seem to cook together sometimes though!

Alex makes a different course for each specialty.

Appetizer: miso and soy seared scallops with miso marinate shallots and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms and she puts bass in the sauce to give it more body! Symon likes that she used the Japanese ingredients but the dish is in her style. Simon loves the miso but one of his scallops was overcooked though the other was perfect. Zakarian loves the dish. Morimoto is very happy with her use of miso.

Entrée: Lamb loin with fennel and olives, and ratatouille over eggplant puree. She is worried about making lamb for the King of Lamb, as she calls Symon but he thinks it is perfect and likes how she wrapped it in fat to cook it. Zakarian loves the eggplant, it is like a luxurious baba ganoush.

Dessert: With the Bobby ingredients pasilla chilis and lime she makes a cherry tart with sour cream ice cream! Bobby says at first he did not get the chili and then it hit which is the magic of chili, and he thinks it is brilliant and inspired. Simon loves the sour cream ice cream. Donatella thinks it is the best dish she has ever made, and Zakarian likes it the best too, it is bursting with flavor. I am a big fan of cherries, maybe next summer when I make my version of cherry pie I will work in some kind of gentle chili and lime!

Amanda combines the cuisines in each course.

Appetizer: Feta Burrata Caprese in a Milk Skin, which sounds kind of disgusting, but it is cheese in cheese so I guess it is good! She makes a Milk Skin, and puts in Feta then twists it up to make a ball and puts it over tomatoes. The tomatoes are seasoned with ponzu, lime and shiso. Symon wants to steal the idea, it is super creamy! Zakarian thinks it is gutsy but I am not sure why! Bobby likes the burrata (which is a cheese, I am not exactly sure what this dish actually is), but wishes there were more shiso and ponzu. Morimoto tastes them just fine! Maybe Bobby has burned out his taste buds on so many chilis!

Entrée: Lamb Loin with charred eggplant pureed with yogurt and chermoula. Simon and Symon both love the eggplant, it has a meaty texture and is not bitter. Donatella thinks it is balanced and yummy!

Dessert: Brown Sugar Corn Cake with miso honey praline ice cream and blueberries with ginger. Morimoto asks her about the miso, she used white miso, he says that is good! Bobby could use a little sugar but Donatella likes it less sweet and appreciates the use of miso in the ice cream! Simon likes how the natural sweetness of the corn works with the miso and is interesting and tasty!

The chefs go away for a while and the judges discuss! They split on the appetizer and dessert but everyone agrees Alex made the best dessert, though Simon thinks it was closer than everyone keeps saying, the miso honey praline ice cream Amanda made was really good! Zakarian says Alex had the perfect execution but Amanda showed more creativity. Alton says Amanda mixed great components in an interesting way, while Alex took an alchemist approach and melded flavors into something new like cherries and chilis. Symon says Alex made his favorite bite of the day.

Alex and Amanda come out to get the verdict! Alex can not remember her name or her address or what she had for breakfast! Did she hit her head? I hope someone makes sure she gets home safely!


The Next Iron Chef is… Alex.

So the conspiracy theorists were right! Her first battle will be next Sunday against Judy Joo!

Iron Chef is taking the Reader’s Digest approach to cooking competitions: get rid of anyone who might be too interesting and bring on the familiar and safe Food Network staff! But maybe Ashley will be her sous chef, that would be fun!

Thank you for joining me on this journey! See you in the summer for Food Network Star!

Sunday with Zin: A Capella Series 2012 – Part 5

Walter Inglis Anderson: "Hummingbirds"

Walter Inglis Anderson: “Hummingbirds”

Hello I am Zin and here are two more A Capella songs to make up for The Sing-Off being cancelled this year! I know there are only supposed to be two but I could not choose so I included them all!

If you grew up watching TV back when shows had theme songs, you will have fun with this Medley from the championship barbershop quartet Acoustix! I knew almost all of them which is a little bit scary, yes? If someone had put the multiplication tables on tv I would know how much 6 x 8 is! I love Acoustix, I saw them perform this live several years ago, before there was a Youtube I think, so I am very happy to find it waiting for me!

If you saw the movie Invictus (or The Gods Must Be Crazy a long long time ago) you have heard this! It is Shosholoza (Go Forward) performed by Overtone with Yollandi Nortjie, and the lyrics and translation are provided!

And our Christmas a capella for today is Noël Nouvelet (Sing We All Noel) by The King’s Singers!

Still More Additions to Pages!

Little Free Library

Little Free Library

Hello I am Zin and here are more additions to our Pages! A lot of new stuff lately!

One is not new, but someone (ahem) forgot to add it a long time ago! So I will add it now!

New on Cool Sites for Readers and Writers:

Bookshelf Porn: “A photoblog created to allow people to indulge their love of books, libraries, bookstores and bookcases by showcasing the best bookshelf photos from around the world.” Hundreds of pictures culled from tumblrs, facebook, websites, all about books, bookshelves, libraries, with links to the original source!

Tin House has a blog with daily entries! They run the Plotto contest sometimes, but also they do Flash Friday (some of the Online Fiction Sampler comes from this), The Art of the Sentence, and other features! This is not really new but somehow it was overlooked so it is now on the list.

New Flash on the Online Fiction Sampler

Finding Spells” by Lavinia Spalding – Flash from the Tin House blog Flash Friday (see?), 12/7/12. A matter of looking.

Call Me Your Unbroken” by Chuck Augello – from Smokelong #38. Maybe a dream, maybe not.

Fear of Something Happening” by Nick Harmon – from Smokelong #38. Apocalypse not happening quick enough for you?

Your Gedanken Collection” by Kenton Yee – from Hobart, 12/6/12. What was Einstein thinking?

Benediction” by Sharon McGill – from Smokelong #35, March 2012. You work with what you have.

Next Iron Chef: Redemption (2012) – Episode 7, Transcendence

Hello I am Zin and it is time for Magic!

I am sorry to say that means David Copperfield! He is superfluous so he goes away quickly.

Here is something I noticed: Marcel acts like he has never been to Las Vegas! He lived there! They cook for part of the episode in Joël Robuchon, where he was a Master Cook (even before his Top Chef days), and you would not know it from this episode! Is it a secret?

Something else I noticed: He is auditioning for something. I do not know what – I do not believe they are going to let him be an Iron Chef – but he is doing all the fluff stuff and cooperating with the nonsense in a way that tells me he has plans to stay on television! It is somehow disappointing, like when Nadia G breaks her Bitchin’ Kitchen character and becomes just another boring ordinary blonde!

Chairman’s Challenge:

The word of the day is Transcendence! I would like to quiz everyone on set and ask them to define that word. It literally means “going beyond” in the same way “ascendance” means “rising above.” The prefix “trans” means “across, beyond, over, across” type words, and is from the same ancient root as the word “through.” So I suppose in cooking it is something that is better than what has been done before, maybe that takes the item to a new level of wonderful. I think they should stop trying to use such concepts in this show because it is something a of a travesty. Amanda is halfway there when she says the words “transcendence” and “buffet” should not appear in the same sentence. But it is easy to transcend a buffet, yes, because the bar is so low?

That is what they must do: in two teams, create a transcendent Las Vegas buffet featuring… bacon! Two cold and three hot dishes per team!

Since Amanda won last week she gets the advantage of picking her partner, and she picks the person who has the same mentality about food: Nate! Just what mentality about food does she think Alex has, I wonder? Not picking Marcel, I understand. He is clearly the Other, the vehicle through which Food Network chefs display their superiority.

That means Alex is stuck with Marcel. She interviews, “I’m excited about this” fairly deadpan then turns to the side with a disgusted look like she can not believe she is mouthing such crap. That is pretty cheeky for someone who was not good enough for Amanda to pick!

The losing team will head to the Showdown where the pair will stop being a team and will become competitors! Amanda is not happy because she did not know that when she picked Nate! I would love for her to finish that thought and say who she would have picked, who she thought she could beat!

The Fashion Director of some low-budget fashion magazine is on the judging panel. Who is this guy? This is crazy, there have been no guest judges all season, why now? And for the love of all that is holy, why him? He seems to be the visual consultant, which is pretty silly. They are throwing all these publicity hounds into the mix this late in the game! But I do not think his opinion matters much.

Amanda and Nate:

They decide to make everything petite! Instead of an all-you-can-eat buffet it is a buffet of teeny-tiny things! Amanda is upset with Marcel because the 25 lb. canister of sugar is at his station and he will not get it down from the shelf for her because he is cooking! I suppose this is to show us what a bad person he is. She is making an homage to Elvis, a play on his favorite peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Amanda makes a salad and Nate makes country-fried bacon for it by flouring and deep-frying it! He learned this from Good Eats! Poor Alton, I wonder if he had to stop making Good Eats because he now a born-again eater! Nate also makes crepes to redeem himself from the teppanyaki challenge, and he makes bacon peanut brittle which sounds amazing. He does not know from decorating buffet tables, but he knows it must look better than the other team so he pulls some drapes over boxes for height which is a good idea.

BLT Salad with country-fried bacon, romaine, avocado and tomato and bacon-jalapeno-lime vinaigrette: Zakarian loves it as a starter! Simon thinks the dressing is absent.

Lobster and Canadian Bacon crepe: Zakarian thinks it is delightful!

Potatoes and Asparagus roasted in Bacon Fat with maitake mushrooms, asparagus, Canadian bacon and sherry vinegar: Donatella loves it, the magazine guy calls it “pure buffet food, perfectly done.” Is that good or bad?

Honey-Mustard Pork Belly with bacon-and-cheddar biscuit: Donatella thinks the mustard is a little “forward.” Zakarian agrees the mustard is strong but he likes the kick!

Brule banana with peanut butter pudding and bacon peanut brittle with a cherry on top:

The magazine guy says they need a lesson in draping, it should fold under. Donatella says they did not fight the buffet, they embraced it and – guess what – took it to another level! I think they should ban that phrase from all cooking shows!

They are the Winners so they will both be in the Finale!

Marcel and Alex:

Alex says she and Marcel share a French sensibility so that is where they are headed. Alex roasts chickens wrapped in bacon (I saw that on that Ultimate show Tyler Florence had for ten minutes when he went somewhere to watch great food being made by experts, until his budget got cut and he ended up just making stuff and calling it the Ultimate). Marcel says “Pretty birds in a row all golden brown is one of the sexiest things I have ever seen” which makes me wonder if Ilan was right in TC2 when he said Marcel had never had sex. Marcel makes chocolate bacon mousse which Alex worries about because the texture is not right. She is making streusel topping with toasted pecans, butter, bacon fat and sugar to make crispy little nuggets of flavor! He pressure-cooks pork belly then wraps it in bacon so he can call it “bacon-wrapped bacon” but it is really pork belly. Alton seems to question leaving the fat on, but I think the point of pork belly is the fat! I do not get it, it seems disgusting to me, but that is what chefs seem to do! Then again Alton has been on a diet for several years so he has probably not seen any fat lately! Alex blanches leeks and makes a sherry and bacon fat vinaigrette, plus hard-boiled eggs chopped with parsley to mix with them! Alton tells her leeks and bacon are best friends! Yes, Alton, I bet that is why she thought of it! She is a chef you know! Marcel sends Alex out to decorate the buffet table with vases of fruit, and for some reason she goes, but she is not enthusiastic. When they set up at the end, he rearranges the table because he wants it “cleaner” which is pretty obnoxious.

Leeks and hard-boiled eggs with bacon vinaigrette: Zakarian says the leeks are undercooked which is a major flaw. Simon agrees. Yay, they agree on something!

Lobster with bacon beurre monté with roasted fingerling potatoes: Zak thinks everything tastes pretty similar.

Bacon-wrapped chicken: Simon says it is very juicy. Donatella thinks it transcended something! The magazine guy does not like that the chickens were piled in a chafing dish “like golden bowling balls,” it was unappealing. Wait – they were kept warm there, then taken out for carving, yes? It is not like the guests had to fish one out?

Bacon-wrapped pork belly with Brussels sprouts: Donatella calls it stellar.

Bacon Chocolate Mousse with Streusel Topping: nobody likes it, it is grainy and the streusel overwhelms it. Donatella thinks it is the worst dish of the day.

They are the losers and go to the Secret Ingredient Showdown to see who goes to the final challenge!

Secret Ingredient Showdown:

It is no surprise that Alex and Marcel are sent to the Showdown! Even the dishes that did well were not lavished with praise like even the worst dishes of the other team were! No one has ever accused the Food Network of being subtle!

It is the first time Alex has ever been in a Showdown! How did that happen? It is the third time for Marcel. There are a lot of conspiracy theorists over on TWoP who think the fix was in for Alex from the start since she acts as sous chef for Zakarian on ICA, but I did not realize she was never in a Showdown before! Maybe they are right! I would like to see a woman back on Iron Chef (and more color) but I am not enthusiastic for either Amanda or Alex like I was for Falkner!

The Secret Ingredient is: Chocolate Candy! All kinds of Candy from one Candy Company! White chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, peanut butter and chocolate candy. They must make a savory holiday dish using two different types of candy in 30 minutes!

There is a problem with these Holiday theme shows, including Chopped and Top Chef: for all the screaming about using local and fresh ingredients, they are filming these in the summer so any holiday produce they bring in is either imported (and not as fresh) or forced. Then they end up making summer produce which just seems silly! But that is TV cooking!

Alex makes duck breast and a salad from her childhood of fennel and dried cherries with white chocolate shaved on top as “snow” and pink peppercorns as Christmas balls! She also has a duck heart that is dipped in egg wash, breaded in panko, and fried, then dusted in dark chocolate, and red wine onions in red wine balsamic and bay leaf covered with grated chocolate. Donatella loves the heat (what heat?) and the touch of sweet so it is a success! But the duck heart was underseasoned! Simon thought using duck with chocolate was smart! She made a lot of things – duck, duck heart, salad, onions – but I am not sure grating chocolate over everything is all that creative! But the duck heart and all those components get her points! It is one of those things that no one would ever bother to cook. Or eat. I would not eat it for Christmas dinner. If someone served me a little breaded duck heart on my plate I would think they hated me!

Marcel uses lamb as a traditional holiday protein (I thought lamb was Easter, spring?) so he sears and roasts a whole rack, but it is not cooked so he has to cut it apart and finish off the chops! If he watched Chopped he would know the rack would not cook in 30 minutes! It never does! He makes a caponata which he describes as a mix of “summer vegetables” – see? Summer veggies are not Christmas! But what they have is eggplant so he does the caponata with dark chocolate and milk chocolate on top. And he makes a risotto, which makes everyone groan because risotto = fail! Then he burns it! Then he starts over – which is pretty amazing since time is ticking away – with sushi rice to speed up the process, and adds white chocolate and curry spices. After they finish cooking, he goes over to Alex and says “Good battle, Chef” and she seems taken by surprise! I do not think they consider him one of them, he is an Interloper! At judging, Simon says he shuddered at the thought of white chocolate curry risotto, but it is the best thing on the plate! His lamb is undercooked – “If it had been any more undercooked it would have been following Bo Peep around” – and is a little tough. Zakarian likes his lamb, it is perfect, and the risotto is delicious! Donatella likes the eggplant, which acted like a sponge for the chocolate!

And the winner is… Alex! SoMarcel is out! But I have a feeling he will be back in some capacity on Food Network! He did too much oohing and aaahing over David Copperfield!

Next Week:

Finale! I do not know how that works, do they throw someone off then have the Kitchen Stadium thing? I thought they had that in a separate episode! But maybe I am misremembering!

Sunday with Zin: A Capella Series 2012, Part 4 – Comfort Music

Jerry Lee Kirk, “Sorrow”

Hello I am Zin. I hope this music offers some small comfort for this bleak midwinter weekend. I am not religious, but I find hymns still touch me in some way.

A Capella:
Psalm (Dedicated to my Mother)” – Adapted/written, composed, performed, overdubbed, and produced by Bobby McFerrin.

This is not A Capella but the introduction is important enough to break the rules.
I heard the bells on Christmas Day” text by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Next Iron Chef: Redemption (2012) – Episode 6, Fusion

"Shrimp Attack" by Kerstlin Arvesen - yes that is really what she titled it!

“Shrimp Attack” by Kerstlin Arvesen – yes that is really the title!

Hello I am Zin and we are going to a Vegas wedding!

On the way there, the Chefs all give little speeches: “I am here to win;” “I am here to be the Next Iron Chef.” I wish one of them would say “I am here to make money and be famous!” You can tell it is getting late in the season when I start getting cranky!

The Challenge:

Alton meets them in a wedding chapel and they notice there is food all around! “Nothing says Las Vegas like a quickie (pause, pause) wedding.” Naughty Alton! They have 45 minutes to make a dish that marries very disparate ingredients like clams and strawberries. See – that Mr. O’Reilly said that if you let gays marry, people would marry turtles next, and here we are with squids marrying marshmallows and chicken livers marrying peppermints! But no people are involved so maybe he will not mind!

Marcel was the winner last week so his advantage is to make the assignments. That is a good advantage! Nate is worried because they have had little tussles and he could really do damage. And Marcel says, “I want to save myself and murder everyone else.” That is the American Way!

All of the hysteria is really out of proportion! Most of these people have been on Chopped! Amanda and Alex are judges on Chopped! They have seen people use combinations like these! With asparagus and rye crackers as well and only 20 or 30 minutes! So stop all the groaning!

Amanda gets calamari and marshmallows! She takes the sweetness out of the marshmallow by adding horseradish, which sounds like a really good idea, and also makes a Hungarian paprika coulis with it. She is trying to deep fry the tentacles and there are Skittles in the fry basket from the dish Mehta was doing! “It just feels so rude.” She is making barley and has trouble with the pressure cooker and Nate helps her (“I plan on winning with integrity” he says) . So she serves grilled marinated squid with marshmallow horseradish cream, paprika coulis, crispy tentacles and a barley-marshmallow treat (like Rice Krispies treats only with barley, that sounds like a really good idea too). But it is not a good idea because her squid and sauces are great but the treat is tough! But Zakarian says the paprika is brilliant to take the calamari on a little tour.

Marcel takes peanut butter and blue cheese which is the least terrible combination! He is talking about being an outsider and they are really playing that for all it is worth! The rest of the chefs seem to hate him, but it is not like any of them would have given away the easiest combination. He wants to show that even though Falkner is gone there still is someone who can make desserts! He makes all sorts of things: blue cheese ice cream which is maybe the most normal thing; peanut butter powder; peanut butter praline; and tawny port fluid gel (which is a lot of trouble to go through but I know what they are talking about, it is a non-Newtonian fluid! Wow I never thought I would get to use my knowledge of oobleck! I am so excited!). Alex is worried because compared to her rustic dish: “It looks souped up and technical.” It turns out the sandwich Simon most loves is blue cheese and peanut butter! I do not believe him! I do not think Simon has ever eaten peanut butter in his life! But he likes this dish, it is like salted caramel. Donatella prefers more sugar in her desserts but it is great anyway. Zakarian says “I do not like this dish” and Marcel looks sad but he continues: “I love it!” Cheesy fake out! But he thinks the tawny port gel is bitter and is a throwaway but the marriage will last 50 years! As Marcel leaves Simon says “That boy could be the next Iron Chef” which means he probably will not be! That is too bad, I thought he got a raw deal in TC2 and even though he has been a bit of a jerk since then, like on All-Stars, I still have a lot of residual affection for him! And they seemed to be creating this “lone wolf” persona for him! But I do not think they could stand having a Top Chef on the show since Alton has been so snooty about it!

Alex has to marry chicken livers and peppermint! I do not think anything goes with chicken livers, I think they should breed chickens without livers so no one ever has to mess with those awful things again! She tries to melt the candy but it turns pink and chalky like antacid so she melts it in balsamic vinegar which is probably a good idea! She gets mad at Marcel because he is in her way. She makes chicken liver mousse on toast with a bistro salad of watercress, grilled radicchio, and fried shallots with shaved peppermint. Simon likes it. Zakarian would like more candy which is not what I expected him to say! Donatella said it is good, but in the end it is chicken liver on toast with a salad and Alex is very good at playing it safe! Uh oh!

Mehta is given bone marrow and Skittles. They call it fruit candy but I assume it is Skittles and they just would not pay the product placement fee, what other kind of fruit candy is there that looks like M&Ms? He does not like the annoying artificial aftertaste of the candy so he melts it with fenugreek (which in addition to being a spice is used as a supplement for all sorts of things like increasing milk flow in nursing mothers and enlarging breasts) to remove the processed taste of the candy and then mixes it into chimichurri, makes lime fruit candy fennel bread with pickled fennel, and makes chili lime fruit candy by drying and reshaping the lime Skittles into balls, deep-frying them, and rolling them in salt and chili. That sounds like a very good idea! And a lot of use of the candy! So his dish is grilled bone marrow, pickled fennel, chimichurri, and the candy balls. Donatella thinks he killed the candy too much! Zakarian calls him a marrow expert but the marriage did not work! Simon disagrees and thinks it all went together well, twice he says he disagrees with Zakarian, and Zakarian says “I heard you the first time.” Now now boys do not fight!

Nate has clams and strawberries which does not seem all that bad. He makes acqua pazza which Marcel made a couple of weeks ago! But he uses strawberries instead of tomatoes because they are both sweet and acidic. I never understand when people call tomatoes sweet, they do not taste sweet to me. He makes cavatelli pasta which happens to be something Donatella makes! And compressed raw strawberries. Everything is good except the pasta which is undercooked and tough, though Nate thinks all of Italy would disagree with that assessment!

The Decision:

Amanda and Marcel made the best dishes! But Amanda had that chewy barley treat, yes? No matter, Amanda wins because Marcel had an easier ingredient and as Alton says, the strategy was not lost on the judges! Oh come on everyone would have done exactly the same thing! They are playing us now! But Amanda is happy and she is the only chef who has won two challenges!

Alex is safe even though her dish was very safe and lacked peppermint because it was delicious! See they change the criteria whenever they need to so they can force the showdown they want! I bet any of them could make a good chicken liver dish, it was the peppermint that was the challenge!

Mehta is in the Showdown since they think he showed “contempt” for the candy by stripping it of its essence! That is nonsense! If he had used it they would have complained that he did not transform it! And those little candy balls were pretty interesting though I do not know how they tasted. But they thought his marrow and chimichurri needed something to cut through the fat. He says “It was raining and I did not have an umbrella but that does not mean I am going to drown in the rain.” I am not sure what that means but it is cute!

Nate is also in the Showdown because even though he got the ingredients to work together well his pasta was bad!

The Secret Ingredient Showdown:

They are in a Japanese teppanyaki restaurant so they must use the teppanyaki tables to cook: Shrimp!

Nate thinks pancakes: okonomiyaki just like the ones my dear Takashi Yagahashi made on TCM4 in their teppanyaki challenge! Which just goes to show you everything NIC does TC did first! Maybe not everything but most things! And just like Takashi, Nate runs into trouble with the pancakes: they fall apart the first time when he pours batter over the ingredients so he tries again by pouring batter and then putting ingredients on top and it works better. Marcel is calling out encouragement which is nice! He adds peas, pea shoots, kaffir lime, and of course the shrimp, plus he uses the bodies and heads to make shrimp oil for a vinaigrette: “It is a shrimp attack!” Alex does not want to meet him in a dark alley with the expression he has on his face! At the end he decides he needs something dramatic so he puts a shrimp head on the griddle and sprinkles on grated ginger and yuzu. He tells the judges to squeeze the head and drizzle it over the pancake! Donatella loves the head! Zakarian says it is balanced and he wants to keep eating! Simon thinks the pancake is dense and chewy and wrong. Nate seems to have trouble with flours!

Mehta cooks his shrimp with cumin and mustard seed and it is the most loving dish he has done in the competition! It is his best childhood memory from India! Alex says, “The sleeping cobra is having to get up out of bed and writhe around on the floor” which also makes no sense, someone must be writing these lines for her and I think it is a crazy person! He also makes a mung bean salad and some breaded shiseido peppers which is a new ingredient for me! But I do not like peppers and one is just as bad as another. Still I like knowing about them. Simon thinks the shrimp is beautifully cooked but there is a disjoint between the shrimp and the peppers. Zakarian does not see any disconnect but he has little seeds in his teeth and some of the shrimp was overwhelmed with cumin seeds! Donatella says it is soulful and well-balanced.

The judges talk: it was not the best showing for either chef, so it is a matter of which is least forgettable. It did not sound like that when they did the tasting!

But in the end they decide the shrimp head was a spectacular little flavor packet so Nate is safe and Mehta is out! And Marcel goes back to being nasty in a side shot: “You can kiss your NIC title goodbye!” That is not nice!

Next week:

David Copperfield (the magician, not the book) and a Las Vegas Buffet!

Sunday with Zin: A Capella Series 2012 – part 3

Hello I am Zin and it is time for two more a capella songs!

First we have The Poozies (five women from Scotland) with Another Train! They are not really an a capella group but this particular song is! It is very encouraging to listen to when you have screwed something up (which I know a lot about).

And for our Christmas song… well, it would not be Christmas without the Chipmunks! But the real Chipmunks do not do a capella, so here we have the Texas A&M a capella group Apothesis singing “Christmas Don’t Be Late!”

Next Iron Chef: Redemption (2012) – Episode 5, Risk

Hello I am Zin and today is all about Risk!

This episode starts off with great drama! An aircraft hangar! Chairs! A huge flag! Paddles! Domes! Eighteen wheeler trucks drive in! What can it be? Falkner thinks it is the Hunger Games and live animals are going to come out of the trucks and eat them! Marcel is thinking live cows! None of it is necessary by the way: they could have done the challenge in the same studio, but it would not have been as dramatic!

The Challenge:

It is the Auction from last season! The whole episode Alex and Falkner are talking about last time when Anne Burrell won the week before so had the advantage and put Zakarian in the bottom, but then ended up in the bottom herself and then lost to him in the Showdown. So it is all about whether this year will follow the same pattern!

If you do not remember, the chefs have to bid time on each ingredient (“I can cook that cow head in 75 minutes… I can cook it in 70 minutes), but they do not know what all the ingredients are so the longer they wait, the more they risk getting stuck with something they do not want. And the last person gets the last ingredient and automatically gets five minutes less than the least cooking time, so the last person is completely screwed!

After they cook, Falkner will pick someone to be in the Showdown, though we will not know who until the end, and the judges will pick someone as usual! I am not sure what would happen if they picked the same person! But that is silly, of course that would not happen, this has all been carefully choreographed in advance, I am sure.

The Dishes:

Item One is a rib of bison, starting at 75 minutes. Nate thinks the butchering is too time-intensive and the ingredient is not risky enough so he ignores it. Alex wins it at 45 minutes. She makes a sauce by pressure cooking the bison and adds some cow tongue and fat she steals from Marcel! “I think if you really want to win sometimes you have to steal a little,” she says! Wait, that is a terrible thing to say! I mean it is fine on NIC, it is all a joke, but she should be ashamed of herself for advocating stealing to win! Of course Marcel was ok with her taking the stuff anyway, so it probably was not stealing, they probably just added that in at the end to ramp up the excitement! She makes spice-rubbed bison steak with pommes Anna which sounds very fancy but is a very simple potato cake made only with potatoes, butter, and salt! But she cooks it with some of the fat from Marcel. Falkner thinks the steak is a little rare. Simon and Zakarian think the use of the tongue and fat worked, and it was cooked perfectly. Donatella tells her the risk is supposed to be what you do with the ingredient, not in stealing something! I wonder if Alex is beginning to feel a little confident, she is the sous chef for Zakarian when he does ICA after all! But she is safe all around!

Item Two is cow heads! Falkner and Marcel bid, Marcel has never broken down a whole head before but he will try, he gets it at 50 minutes. He braises the tongue in one pressure cooker, the cheeks in another, and the leeks in a third! His usual process for tongue takes seven days but he is speeding it up! He makes “tongue and cheek” – hey, Blaise made that for the Top Chef All-Stars finale! He won, too! And when Edward Lee was on ICA, that was his theme ingredient! Or ingredients. He makes them with white corn polenta. Falkner thinks it is pretty tough and needs fat. But Zakarian calls it his most modern dish, and elevated! Donatella agrees, it is well-balanced and delicious! Simon notes that the pressure cooker sometimes brings doom but it is a terrific dish and he is now a serious contender! Aha! Redemption! I wonder why it was tough when Falkner tasted it, I wonder if they have to cook the stuff for the judges after Falkner tasted, like they do on ICA after they make the single plate, so it had more time to cook. Except Alton kept telling them to make sure they made a plate for Falkner. I do not understand the logistics, but I do not think the stuff sits around as long as it appears.

Item Three is paiche, a fresh-water fish from the swampy waters of the Amazon basin. That is true, but I suspect the fish they have there is farmed in Peru, because it is a protected species due to over fishing (!) and there is now a limit on wild caught fish which does not allow for export, maybe, it depends on which website you look at, and only recently has farming been possible. Just what we need, Iron Chefs cooking endangered species! Falkner and Amanda go for it, and Falkner gets it at 50 minutes. She calls it “alligator meat” and “some kind of giant goldfish” but I do not think that is right, it is compared to sea bass or black bass, though it is a fresh water fish. It has these huge scales so she is frying them to make chips, which could work, I have seen that before (Edward Lee again, but on Top Chef Texas). She makes pan roasted filet with the loin smoked and grilled in a ceviche (I do not understand, it is cooked, is that still ceviche?) with a Peruvian corn salad and the chips seasoned with smoked paprika. Unfortunately everyone hates the fish scales, but Donatella likes the corn and Zakarian likes the fish.

Item Four is a huge wheel of Parmesan cheese! Mehta thinks it is the least risky ingredient so he does not bid. Amanda gets it at 40 minutes. The biggest problem she has is getting the wheel open, she pounds and chops and it takes her a while to get it to split. She makes parmesan ice cream and parmesan almond shortbread with basil soufflé, a prosciutto crisp, grilled fig, and pomegranate molasses. I do not understand, ice cream and a soufflé? Is that a meal or just random stuff thrown together? She calls it a cheese course! Falkner thinks the soufflé is slightly underseasoned but applauds the ice cream. Donatella thinks something is too salty (maybe she adjusted after Falkner said it was underseasoned?) but risky, and Zakarian thinks the soufflé is too eggy, more like a frittata.

Marcel wonders: “Mehta, Nate, do their paddles work?” They have not bid on anything!

Item Five is Ostrich Eggs, and now the guys bid like crazy! Mehta takes it at 25 minutes. He has never used ostrich eggs before, but he says the albumin is more watery.He knows Zakarian is a soufflé connoisseur, so he makes yogurt soufflé and ice cream with French toast. Falkner tells him the soufflé is not as successful as he wants it to be! Zakarian thinks the soufflé is bland, Simon agrees but loves the ice cream. Donatella loves the salt and sugar.

Item Six goes to Nate and he will have 20 minutes to make something with a gigantic Mortadella sausage! Mortadella, that is cold cuts! At least it does not require cooking! Nate cuts off “just the tip” (giggle) and goes for mortadella foam! He calls it mousse and says he is putting it in the whipper but it is a foamer! He wants it light and airy. He makes mortadella and polenta fritter with mortadella mousse and a fennel, pistachio and raisin compote. Falkner calls the mousse “not your best effort” which sounds ominous! Zakarian thinks it is tasty and well constructed but an odd dish. Donatella does not like the mousse, and Simon says, “A blessing from the Pope would not save the mousse.” Uh oh! See, everyone makes fun of Marcel and his foams, but he at least knows how to make them!


The judges name Marcel the winner! That is quite a comeback! Amanda is second in spite of her seasoning missteps. Neither of them were named by Falkner so they are safe! Alex made the tastiest dish but she was also the least risky so she only comes in third and she is also safe! Mehta had a bad soufflé but he is safe!

That leaves Nate and Falkner, and she named him as her choice for the Showdown and he is the pick by the Judges as the least favorite, so they are up against each other! And everyone ooohs and aaaahs that this is the same way it happened last time to Anne Burrell!

The Secret Ingredient Showdown:

The ingredient was voted on by viewers at the FN website: Anchovies! That is a good ingredient! I hate them, but chefs like them. They have all the varieties, fresh, white, oil and salt packed.

Nate is ready for blood: “She put me in the bottom, she no longer exists to me now.” Wow, that is heavy! He is most worried about controlling the salt of the anchovies. He makes an anchovy Spanish tortilla (like a frittata or pan omelet) with anchovy romesco sauce and an anchovy aioli and blanched kale. Simon loves Spain and he captured it; the aioli is the best thing he has made in the competition. Zakarian loves it too! Donatella thinks the tortilla is slightly underseasoned and did not get much anchovy in two of the components! I wonder if she is tasting the same thing as the other judges!

Falkner does a classic Caesar dressing with mustard, anchovies, olive oil, garlic, and lemon in the blender, but then puts it in alginate for spherification! Marcel, he is an expert at this, he worries she will not have enough time, because it needs to rest to set the membrane, but it works fine and it looks great on the plate. She calls it Caesar bursts with pasta alla sarde (pasta with sardines) with raisins and pine nuts. Simon thinks the saffron is too strong. Donatella agrees but it is taking her to Sicily. Zakarian thinks the saffron is too much, but she took more risk.

The Final Cut:

Donatella says, “Nate cooked food we want to eat, but Falkner took risks.” So since the theme of the day, Falkner is out! What? That does not make sense! Still they all agreed she had too much saffron while only Donatella thought Nate had a problem, so I guess it does make sense. So the Curse of the Auction remains! And it is all nonsense anyway, I do not believe anything the judges say, it is all a matter of who gets the most screen time. I am surprised they let Marcel stay this long! But I hoped Falkner would be the Next Iron Chef. Oh well, Maybe next year!

Next Week:

A Vegas wedding! Peppermint and Chicken Livers! This sounds like Chopped!

Sunday with Zin: More New Stuff for Readers and Writers

The Man of Letters or Pierrot's Alphabet (1794)

The Man of Letters or Pierrot’s Alphabet (1794)

New listings on the Cool Sites for Writers and Readers page:

Give a Hand to Wild Life

Brain Pickings: “A human-powered discovery engine for interestingness, culling and curating cross-disciplinary curiosity-quenchers, and separating the signal from the noise to bring you things you didn’t know you were interested in until you are.” They review books, collections, and have interviews about literature, art, design, all sorts of things! All the art in this post comes from materials (books, magazines, collections, exhibits) they have featured just in the past month! It is curated by Maria Popova. I discovered this site when I did the List of Lists of Rules for Writers post!

Bloom: “A literary site devoted to highlighting, profiling, reviewing, and interviewing authors whose first major work was published when they were age 40 or older…. If someone is labeled a ‘late bloomer,’ the question Bloom poses is, ‘Late’ according to whom?” Sonya Chung, founding editor. Since we are old farts around here we like this!

The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories

The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories

Summerbooks: a monthly literary podcast by Natalie Sypolt and Renee Nicholson. They did an episode about What the Zhang Boys Know! They are new this year!

Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading: “One story a week, each chosen by today’s best authors or editors.
Recommended Reading is released on a four week curation cycle: beginning with a story chosen by Electric Literature, followed by an excerpt from an indie press, then an author recommendation, and finally a selection from a magazine’s archive. Each issue includes an editor’s note written by that week’s partner, introducing you to the work and their mission.” Halimah Marcus and Benjamin Samuel, Editors; Andy Hunter, Publisher. It is free! And the stories are good!


And an announcement that is upsetting me:

Duotrope is going paid! I am very sad and kind of angry! Now, Duotrope is a very good service and I can imagine it takes time and effort to run and I do not blame the Duotropers for wanting to earn something for their trouble, and it is easily worth the fee, especially to new writers who need help figuring out where to look and those who submit a lot (we have contributed over the years, we even contributed after we stopped submitting work! Because we still used it occasionally to see what the stats for a market were like). The new fee will be $5 a month or $50 a year, and that is reasonable, but it will knock some people out of Duotrope, and that is sad! By the way if you have been using the submissions tracker you must export it before Jan.1 or you will lose access to it unless you pay the fee! We are debating whether to leave the listing with a note that it is now a paid service, or take it down since all the other links on the Cool Sites page are free! I suppose this was inevitable but I am sad this day is here!

Next Iron Chef: Redemption (2012) – Episode 4, Transformation

What a lot of fuss over.... this?

What a lot of fuss over…. this?

Hello I am Zin and tonight the chefs are Transforming Canned Meat! Alex: “This is not gonna be pretty.” That is right, but the fun part is in the Showdown! But we have to get there first! Patience!

Transformation: The Challenge :

Alton explains they have to redeem the reputation of canned food through transformation! I think there is something wrong with the use of the word “redeem” in that sentence (which implies that the reputation needs to be restored to its original good standing) but no matter, he points out Spam, corned beef, Vienna sausage (“You have been to Vienna? This is not like that!”), clams, and three cans of different sizes with question marks for the adventurous! Everyone picks, and then Amanda can steal whatever she wants if she is not happy with the can that is left.

Falkner takes one of the question marks, and does not recognize it when she opens it, it is dark brown liquid but she tastes what is in the liquid and it is roast beef! And it is dry even though it is in the liquid! I am not sure how it could possibly be dry – she even has to drain it – but “dry” is what food people say when they do not like something. She starts with the idea of Beef Bourguignon and makes a Bordelaise Sauce using cognac. She roasts root veggies in foil, then makes gougères with truffles (little cheese puffs) to bring to mind Yorkshire pudding. Zakarian loves the velvety winey flavor and Donatella is impressed she made something awful palatable, though the gravy maybe needed some acid burned off. Still it is good and she is the Winner!

Amanda does not steal from anyone but takes the Corned Beef that is left: “Let them go down for what they choose, not what I choose.” She makes these square potatoes that look really cool. She has a terrible time opening the can, it is one of the old-fashioned kind with the keys, but finally she just gets a can opener. She says it looks dog-foodish once she gets it open! Yes, I know what she means! A few years ago I got a can of hash, because I remembered it from when I was little and I thought it was pretty good, but it was an awful gelatinous mess and very greasy. She mixes some corned beef with mustard greens and bacon fat, makes a mustard cream and some rye croutons for an homage to corned beef, a deconstructed corned beef sandwich! Zak calls it five-star camp food, luxurious and extravagant, though the sauce was not reduced quite enough. Simon: “It makes me want to carry you off and make you my chef forever.” Ewwww. Donatella questions whether the corned beef itself is the star of the plate or is more of a garnish, which is interesting, it is really a salad with a little corned beef and bacon sprinkled in. But it is quite good and she is safe!

Mehta takes a question mark can and finds out he has chicken! I so hate canned chicken, when my cat was so sick I tried to feed her canned chicken and it was pretty disgusting, though I like real chicken. Mehta: “I need to redeem canned chicken by making it stand out like a lion.” He coats it in arrowroot batter to remove the canned taste and makes chicken pakora with green curry and rice. He knows the rice is mushy but can not do anything about it now. Donatella likes it a lot, it is perfectly seasoned with beautiful heat and the chicken is juicy and transformed! Zak calls it genius. Simon agrees, but the rice is overcooked. Alton is sure to prompt him (it must not be his turn to be in the bottom): “But it did not ruin the dish, right?” and he says no, not at all.

Nate also takes a question marked can and is pleasantly surprised to find Tuna! But it is dry (again, it is in water, how can it be dry?) and devoid of flavor (how can tuna be devoid of flavor, it smells to high heaven!). He decides to do tuna three ways. He makes tuna putanesca sauce which is appropriate (the name means “of the whore” and was called that because sluts would not go get fresh ingredients but use things in cans), with capers and olives, then purees more tuna into pesto, makes some ricotta gnocchi, then freezes tuna with liquid nitrogen and grates it onto the top to look like parmesan cheese! That is the sort of thing Bobby Flay does, using the Secret Ingredient in every component of the dish! He is worried the pesto is salty. Zakarian likes the idea of the shaved tuna. Donatella does not think the two sauces go together, and so it is transformative, but not all that good. Simon does not like the pesto at all, it has a metallic taste. Still he approached brilliance by shaving the frozen tuna so he is safe!

Alex gets Spam and makes sugar snap pea ravioli with crispy spam, basil pesto and fried sage. Donatella says it is like eating grass, and Simon calls it “Kermit in a blender” but gives her credit for turning the ingredient into something light and fresh. Zakarian says it tastes better than it looks! So even though she served pureed lawn clippings she is safe!

Marcel got to choose first and he took clams! He makes a clam cake, acqua pazza (crazy water – a tomato broth) with the clam juice, and simmers kale in it. He hopes they appreciate his restraint and more mature plating style! But he serves it in a super-wide-brimmed bowl with a little ceramic cloche, so it is still kind of flashy! But at least he does not serve it in the can! Alton is making faces as they all taste; Simon compliments the presentation but it is very salty and is one of the worst bites he has had all season! Donatella agrees, and Zakarian says there is something else unidentifiable in addition to the saltiness. Alton calls it inedible! Marcel: “It’s kind of a major mistake.” Kind of? (By the way, I am watching ICA as I type this and I see a piece of marinated fish on a scallop shell, a piece of fried fish on newspaper, which the challenger must have brought it with him, a copper dish nestled in a bed of salt on a platter, and something in a half orange! Not to mention a big flower served on one dish! And no one complained!) But oversalting is another matter, and he is obviously in the Showdown!

Spike gets Vienna Sausage and turns it into a Vietnamese crepe! Maybe he was matching words? Vienna and Vietnam? He uses mushrooms, ramps, and nuoc cham (a spicy Vietnamese sauce) for his crepe. Simon is worried about the heat (Spike interviews he brushes his teeth with nuoc cham and there is nothing wrong with that sauce) and Zakarian thinks it would have been better as an omelet rather than a crepe. It is missing cohesion! He is in the Showdown!

Oh no! The two buddies have to do battle! Spike says he and Marcel were friends playing frisbee “back when we were nobodies” which makes me so sad that he thinks they are not nobodies any more! But I think they will get the message by the end of this show!

The Iron Chef Kitchen Stadium Secret Ingredient Showdown Challenge:

The Secret Ingredient is revealed: Lobster! It sounds like they used a recording of the Chairman to call out the word, or is Alton imitating him? I suppose since the first challenge had such difficult ingredients, they are using something easier, the opposite of what they did last week when they could use anything they wanted in the first challenge but had cereal for the second.

Marcel and Spike are nice to each other! They yell “I love you man.” How dare they? The other Chefs watching hate it! They get mad! Alex: “This is not a showdown, this is a brodown!” Amanda: “Are they working together?”

It is crazy how they all pretty much gang up on these two Top Chef guys who are clearly outsiders and pick on them for… being friends? It is so strange, the same thing happens on Project Runway when one designer helps another finish a garment, there is always someone who will complain but here everyone is complaining! This makes me really sad because I still remember how Marcel was so bullied on TC-S2, and you know what, now that I think about it, I think maybe this whole bro-thing and outsider thing and all the criticism is playing on that incident! Maybe to make him an underdog, maybe to capitalize on his TC notoriety (a lot of people hate him), it is interesting, because people who felt sympathetic back then will feel sympathetic again, and those who hate him will hate him again, so it is kind of an all-purpose typecasting!

But the real fun starts when Marcel and Spike decide to plate together! Except not really, it is just that the bowl of soup will go on a big plate that contains the salad! It is not like they made a lobster pie and one made the meat and the other the crust and toppings! They are two separate dishes, just in proximity, like soup and salad! I do not get the big deal but the other chefs are outraged!

Nate: They are making a mockery! (This show is all about mockery!)
Falkner: You do not win Iron Chef as a pair! (Anyone ever tell you not to do something?)
Amanda: They are breaking the rules! (Like using the canned corned beef as a garnish?)
Alex: This is unprecedented! (Like a woman heading up a kitchen?)
Nate: It is the worst decision they have ever made! (like leaving a major NY restaurant to work at Chipotles?)
Amanda: It is an act of defiance! (Just like the judges in Japan did not like Bobby Flay standing on a cutting board at the end!)
Mehta: It is a race and only one person finishes! (Yes, Mr. Serial Killer!)
Donatella: It is arrogance! (Can you spell that?)
Zakarian: We are being played (Like going bankrupt rather than pay your employees!)
Alton: Maybe I’ll have to talk to the Chairman about that! (You mean the dancing actor?)

These chefs are really being ridiculous! I think it is fun, and unexpected, the sort of thing an Iron Chef would do! I wonder if the producers have engineered this whole thing! And they are missing the point, they were two separate dishes!

Spike wants to make food that makes people want to go home and have sex! Or fall asleep! Wait, that is not the same thing! He makes laksa and lobster noodles using the meat from the tails pureed with egg and scallions then squirted through a pastry bag into boiling water! He is on a Vietnam kick today! They try to build suspense about whether or not the noodles will work but of course they do!

Marcel makes lobster and mango salad. He makes hibiscus gelee which really takes 48 hours to heat, cool, and thicken it but he is doing the quick version with liquid nitrogen to make a sauce! Then he makes black bean chili sauce! And seaweed (I think someone said it was kombu). Say what you want about Marcel but that is a lot to do in 30 minutes!
Marcel interviews “When I become the Next Iron Chef not only can Spike be my sous chef, he can stand on the podium and go [swoosh-swoosh with his head]. Marcel, sweetie, that kind of comment is the reason so many people hate you!

They play with the whole “you first, no you” thing, but Spike goes first, and that turns out to be a mistake for Marcel! His dish is cold and more delicate, it should have gone first so it would not be affected by the spicy laksa!

The judges hate the plating idea but love both dishes! In fact it is for both of them the best dish they have made! But Marcel wimps out when the judges ask if they should both go home together! That is too bad, they should have taken a stand!

In the end they reward creativity and originality so Spike is out and everyone gets to look smug and superior while clucking at Marcel.

Alton: “No one on the other side of that wall wishes you well.” Wow, they should pay royalties for using his Top Chef persona so much!

Next week: Cow heads! Auction! “I can cook that cow head in 55 minutes!”