Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Life Lessons From Making Cheese

Here be one of them guest columnists I were talkin' about. This here scurvy dog is a sad excuse fer a man, but he makes a mean cheese, so pay 'im heed! (The Cap'n)

By Mark Hopkin

My second daughter, Grace (aka, Goose, Garcia, Gershwin, Peggy), and I have gained a fascination with rotten milk. This all started a little over a week ago when she was bored and decided to surf the net looking for yogurt and cheese recipes. Here would be a good place for me to mention that Grace isn't normal. Of course, none of my girls is normal, but she is even stranger than the others, except in some areas where they exceed her strangeness.

While other 18-year-old girls might use their downtime to stalk semi-friends on Facebook or read about Rihanna's latest tattoo, Grace dedicates herself to learning the subtleties of cultured dairy products. So last Monday we made yogurt. After heating the milk and adding some starter (just a couple of tablespoons of preexisting yogurt), we poured it in a Nalgene bottle and stuck it under a bucket with a lamp inside. I'm proud to say that was my own innovation. Tuesday morning was like Christmas. I ran into the kitchen with my eyes all aglow to look under the bucket, and amazingly enough, we had a Nalgene full of yogurt. After eating a few small bowls of it, I can safely say that Yoplait can rest easy for at least a while.

But it yogified, and that was enough to inspire Grace to move on to bigger and better things. So on Tuesday, she decided to tackle cheese, and not just any cheese -- feta cheese. That afternoon we went to the organic grocery store and purchased some rennet, which, if I'm not mistaken, is made from cow vomit. The first part of the cheese process is a lot like making yogurt, but with cow puke. Then after the initial curdling process, you strain it through a cheese cloth. Since we didn't have cheese cloth, we used a dish towel, which, through the magic of capillary action, wicked a big puddle of whey all over our coffee table, then a succession of pink and red bandannas. I thought this would have the same effect as washing white underwear with a red sock, but surprisingly, the finished cheese ball was pure white. Maybe we should try adding cheese to our laundry.

A word to the wise. Don't throw your collection of whey-soaked towels into the hamper and forget about them. For the next two days, our familial bliss was interrupted as we kept unjustly accusing each other of fouling the air, until we realized the source of the rancidity. Who knew that something cheese related could stink? Go figure.

Now we're soaking the feta in a jar with heavily salted whey (see photo), and after a week it should actually taste like feta cheese. And that's the sad part. After all this effort, stench, and anticipation we're going to end up with feta cheese. I won't be able to tell if we were successful or not, because to me, the only good feta is a dead feta. Do you think it's a coincidence that "fetid" and "feta" are so similar?

Then it occurred to me. That would be a great way to live life. If you only apply yourself to things that are inherently bad, no one can ever say you've failed. For instance, it doesn't matter whether you're the world's worst or best Scottish chef. Who can tell? Are you saying I write bad haiku? Prove it! And is one painting of dolphins really any better than all the others?

So weird daughter Grace, I want to offer you my eternal thanks. In a few days, when we bite into that fetid feta, it will be a symbol of my new pursuit of excellence in things no one likes. Now, if you'll excuse me, my Kenny G. Tribute band is having a rehearsal.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Aye on 'Ollywood

(Other End of the Line; Bruno; Princess Protection Program; Flash of Genius)

Alas, mateys, me hasn't had the time nor the booty to make it to the theaters fer a new movie this week. But I did indulge in some video entertainment through the magic of DVD. Sadly, me wench hath not let me steal a blue ray machine yet, but 'tis jus a matter o time.

Me recently rented The Other End o' the Line about a girl what's a phone service person in India (played by a Bollywood actress), pretendin' to be a San Francisco wench named Debbie, but really her name's Priya, which, me thinks, is what all Indians is named. You'd think with a billion people, 'twould behelpful to have more than one name. She gets a powerful hankerin' for one of the credit card customers she's helpin' (the young guy what was Eva Longoria's boy toy in the first season of Desperate Housewives, but don't ask me how me knows that. Have you noticed the slew of actresses named Eva lately?). Let me issue a warnin' to ya. Don't fall fer them phone customer service girls. They's trouble. I met up with one in the Sargasso Sea once, and it were an awkward situation. But Priya are different. She decides to meet up with her fellow when he's on a business trip to San Francisco, so she cashes in her life savings and heads to San Fran in search of the one man in the whole city what might be interested in her gender. The usual hijinks ensues involving misunderstandings, deception, hurt feelings, and all that rot. But through it all, our boy toy is smart enough to know that Priya is prettier than any stinkin' American girl, and she's gentle and sincere when she's not deceivin' him. The Cap'n has recently gained an appreciation fer Indian women. Me wishes me own wee daughters was Indian, so they'd be prettier, but 'twas not to be. In spite of some really bad actin' by Priya's mom and dad (Priya and Priya), the Cap'n could just watch this movie all day long. Me finds meself calling airlines and credit card companies a lot lately, just in case something comes of it (a note to me wench, this is jest a joke). Cutlass up fer this'n.

Me had a special request to do a review of Bruno. This is the new alternative lifestyle Austrian version of Borat, which is the foul, mean-spirited version of Candid Camera. The Cap'n refuses to watch Bruno for varied reasons. First, it's rated Arrrrr, and bein' a family pirate, I don' watch Arrrr-rated movies. Me also objects to the whole premise of these movies. Anybody can be funny if they humiliate innocent bystanders. Believe me, me knows. Me crew used to do it fer fun, and it were a hoot, but then we decided it were too mean. Oh, sure, we kill and maim, but now we leave our victims with their dignity. So me won't watch Bruno and I's ashamed of ye if ye watches it. Parrot talons down fer the whole idea o' Bruno

I's not proud of it, but me watched the Disney movie Princess Protection Program starring the two new Disney creations Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez. Tis a cute yarn about a princess whose tiny country is taken over by a mean general and has to go live with a Louisiana bait salesgirl to get out o' harm's way. This whole plot is ridiculous, because everyone knows the first place we evildoers look fer victims is bait shops. But if ye can get past that wee gaffe, it be worth rentin'. At first the bait girl is mean because she thinks the princess be a spoiled brat. But then they realize they's cut from the same hunk o' sailcloth, and selfless acts o' nobleness ensue. These is two young actresses what's got a future. Mark me word, Selena Gomez be a fine little actress what could go beyond Disney comedies. An embarrassed eye patch up fer PPP.

Me final movie be a rental called Flash o' Genius starring Lorelei Gilmore and Greg Kinnear. Me figured with Lorelei Gilmore, it have to be funny and clever. And Greg Kinnear was clever and charming in the remake of Sabrina. (Where the 70-year-old Harrison Ford falls fer the 21-year-old Sabrina. I love Indy as much as the next guy, but me lost a lot o' respect fer Harrison when he quit his long-time wench fer that skinny Flockhart lass, and what be with the earring? Pirates is the only old guys what can wear an earring, 'Arry!) So me told me crew that 'twas a light-'earted comedy. Then the movie opened wi' Greg sittin' on a bus all crazy like, and police comin' ta escort him ta safety, because, apparently, he done went round the bend. Then the next scene say "Three years earlier." So right there, I already knows it has a depressin' ending. Some comedy, me family says, and the first of me wee wenches checks out and goes to bed. The story is about a guy what invents the intermittent windshield wiper, but gets done wrong by the big three automakers when they steals his invention (as if that's wrong). Call me crazy, but these isn't times to be villifyin' the auto industry. Talk about kickin' a guy when he's down (the best time to kick a guy, by the way). Me learned a lesson durin' this experience. Never start a depressin' movie at 1 AM. We gave 'er 40 minutes to see if somethin' funny or triumphant might 'appen, but we finally gave up and went to bed. Peg leg down fer the first 40 minutes.

Eat plenty o' veggies and citrus, er ye'll be sorry!

Guest Columnists

Me can't be everywhere at once, and a pirate can only watch so many movies. So to keep the fresh content comin', I may force one of me prisoners to write sumpin from time to time. Twill most likely be rot, but at least twill be new. And they tells me that's all what matters on this modern Internet. Jes' keep it comin', even if 'tis garbage. Well, I aims to please (actually, I aims fer the head, and I ain't talking about the terlet, although I aims fer that one, too), so me and me guest writers will do our best to accommodate yer low standards.