Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011: A Year in Review

A belated happy birthday to Greg's Gourmet contributor A. Pawar and an early happy birthday to contributor Addie Talley!  Best wishes to both of you.  And a special shoutout thanks to the Bone Crusher who presented me with a refurbished computer!  I can't say enough how much I appreciate that as well as Bone Crusher's contributions and support of The Gourmet.  Additionally, she also provided me with enough chocolate to turn my face into one massive zit, so big thanks there as well!

2011 has been an interesting year.  I know it's also been a tough year for a lot of people out there including a bunch of my readers.  We've got a Congress that's more inept than Rick Perry's epic dislike-to-like ratio on his YouTube videos, a state government that makes this guy look like Stephen Hawking's smarter twin brother, and an economy that makes Jared Fogle's pornography business look like a conglomerate giant (yes, I am going to keep bringing that up because it's just so funny).

A Rule Britannia of eggs/tomatoes/bacon, potatoes, and toast

I don't even know what the hell a Rule Britannia is, but that's what it looks like.  Pretty good stuff from Cafe 976 in Pacific Beach, CA while meeting with relatives.  Thought I'd start you off with some food before going into a thoughtful post.

I've been blogging steadily for the entire year, something I haven't done since the Myspace days and Xanga prior to that (for which I was eventually banned for having too much to say).  I've been fortunate to develop an awesome following of readers and fans of the blog, something I take very seriously.  It's immensely pleasing when someone talks about the blog or says they forwarded it onto someone or set it as their homepage.  Okay, I made that last part up, but the rest is true.  The development and marketing of the blog has been part of an experiment to dive into the realms of social media (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc., etc.).  First of all - YouTube.  I'd like to start a vlog or some kind of semi-regular video feature.  This would naturally include regular contributors and me partaking in feats of epic proportions, eating weird or gross things, or filming unusual food items.  I'm still not sure how it would work and I'm not sure what I'll use for a camera (I've got an old Canon that uses tape but has a fried battery and I've got my Nano but I'm not sure if I can edit that video on a PC).  So stay tuned for that in 2012.

Facebook is an enigma.  I like how you can connect with anyone but at the same time don't like how it devalues friendship.  How many people are on your Facebook that you have absolutely no communication with but were otherwise friendly or even friends with at some point?  It's like making that online connection means you're free of all obligations to actually "stay in contact".  This is true with Greg's Gourmet, because I post my bi-weekly updates on there and have a good idea of who looks at it and who doesn't, and I find it interesting to discover who doesn't check this blog out at all.  I'm not mad, I just genuinely find it interesting because I believe it's part of that whole phenomena of making that online connection but then seizing to actually continuing the friendship.  And if you're reading this then obviously I'm not talking about you.  Even if you visit every once in a while I'm not talking about you.  I'm talking about people I considered or may still think of as good friends who never look at the site or wouldn't know that Greg's Gourmet exists.  The thing is, though - Facebook is such a tiny fraction of my total viewership.  So much of my traffic now comes from other sources but you still wonder why certain people seemingly refuse to look at the site of a so-called friend.  It's interesting and that's the phenomena that it creates.  Of course with Facebook you can be friends with people you otherwise wouldn't be friends with so it can go both ways.

Social media is kind of like a relationship in the sense that you've gotta give some to receive some, and I'm always happy to oblige.  I have a whole page here dedicated to other people's websites and whenever I mention someone I include a link to their stuff (unless I have reason to think they don't want it included.  If I have made a mistake in assuming one way or the other, do let me know).  I seriously find it all fascinating because in a way, social media helps you figure out who your real friends are.  Back in 2003 if you'd launch a blog it was a big deal and everyone would flock to it to see what you were up to.  I don't know when that mentality changed because I've seen people launch blogs this year and then tell me "nobody's looking at it."  I find it strangely perplexing that you have to market your blog to people on your Facebook, but as I previously mentioned, that's the world we've created with all of this technology.  It's no longer "oh, my friend created this, I'm gonna check it out", but rather, you've gotta pitch yourself to earn those views.  At least that's what I think.

Above all else, the site serves as a reflection of myself and, really, a portfolio of what I can do.  It's not just really brilliant writing that reaches a wide audience, but it's the marketing and advertising without being annoying, demonstrated principles of photography, use of Flash, Photoshop, and Dreamweaver, utilization of HTML and CSS coding, ActionScript coding, and even frickin' retail!  But you look even deeper and you'll find other things I do, including a portfolio of my screenwriting, my ability to leave critical feedback without being a jerk, examples of video editing and proper framing.  I'm not saying this to boast, but to just bring to attention because I'm applying for jobs where these skills can come in handy and a blog is a perfect way to show them off.  Last year I wouldn't have been able to say any of this because so many of those skills and programs were foreign to me.

Egg Salad from the Mt. Soledad Market and Deli

It's also interesting that certain companies and other brands reach out to celebrity bloggers such as myself and others turn the other cheek.  This is where Twitter comes in handy and why I should really update it more even though I think it's ridiculously stupid.  The reality is though - every time I write a post I'm advertising someone for free.  And considering that my readership has been growing all year, that's huge.  Companies like Cafepress, YoCrunch, and Rangoli to name a few have reached out, whether it be through Twitter or e-mail or some other medium.  That kind of connection is huge.  Likewise, other companies sometimes choose to act like jerks, such as Vons, Jack Link's Beef Jerky, or Lake Murray Cafe.  By the way - every time I mention those goof companies in a post they move one notch up in the search engines.  See what happens when you have poor customer service?

Since starting Greg's Gourmet I've expanded my horizon with what kind of food I eat, namely seafood.  You couldn't get me near seafood for the longest time, but since creating this site dedicated to food, I've learned to appreciate all different kinds of gourmet, above and below sea level and from all over the world.  I don't make fun of vegans as much as I used to, though I still do trash people who go to McDonald's looking for a healthy lunch (and then getting a salad and drenching it in ranch dressing.  Cool story, bro).  If this is you then please stop reading this blog.  I can't even stand to look at you.

I've had a lot of fun updating this site throughout the year with my gourmet adventures.  Everything from junk food to fast food to fine dining to health food to disgusting crap to childhood stories to road trips.  Everything from pigs lips to fried octopus to the In-N-Out 4x4 to eating in a ghost town to the Gatorade Mafia.  Even though certain subjects tend to garner more reads than others, I think it's good to have a broad range of different features and stories centered around food.

One of my goals for the new year is to still aim for a million views.  It's hard, especially since blogs get far less views than videos on YouTube and I started this from scratch, but I think it's a doable aspiration.  I also plan to continue to update the design and interface of the site as I further develop my skills in web coding.  I'm not going to do anything stupid like Facebook's new Timeline feature (seriously, do they have a bunch of 5 year olds working there?), but I want to gradually add more color and design to give it life.  And Top 5 Tuesday.  Maybe actually aim to update it every Tuesday.  Or just change it to Top 5 Whenever.

If you're considering starting a blog of your own I'd say go for it.  However, unless it's a simple "here's what's going on in my life" personal blog, you'll find that it's a lot more challenging to maintain than you'd think but it's worth it.  Views can be hard to come by but you have to just keep marketing it around.  Keep updating it and keep getting your stuff out there.  I know it can be nerve wracking to post stuff for the world to see, but if you can hold someone's attention while they're on your page and keep them coming back for more then you're doing something right.  Your own confidence can rub off on people for the better.  The first thing I ever posted on the Internet was a script back in 2003 or 2004.  I put it on a professional screenwriting site for feedback and it got a hole ripped in it bigger than the one in Rick Santorum's foreign policy.  But you bounce back.  I don't like cliches...actually, wait, I love cliches - and in an attempt to quote Rocky: "It's not how hard you can throw a punch but how hard you can take a punch."

It's been a terrific first year for Greg's Gourmet and there's gonna be tons more exciting, mouth-watering things to come.  At any time if you have pictures of really good food that you've eaten, I'd love to see them.  Recommendations?  Yes please.  Challenges to eat really disgusting things?  Sure, bring it on.

Hope you're having a terrific holiday season and have a remarkable New Year!

It felt appropriate to end this post with a steak

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Second Best Meal of the Year

Real quick announcement:

You'll see that the site is undergoing some layout changes.  I'm at the point now where I'm pretty comfortable editing the HTML/CSS code to make the site look really badass.  I mean, it's already really badass, but soon it'll be really badass of a different kind.  I was also tired of the dark colors.  The only reason they were still there was because when I first launched Greg's Gourmet, I chose a black template due to its simplicity and that it would make the food pictures look really good against a dark background.  Now the dark colors are just a drag, so I'm lighting things up a bit.  If something looks off, I already know about it.

Last month we discussed what the best meals of the year were and came to the unanimous conclusion that Thanksgiving takes the cake.  There's still debate over what number two is, but I've already made my decision: Christmas.  It's gotta be Christmas.  I mean, it's the most wonderful time of the year, right?  And the thing is - where Thanksgiving lags, primarily in the sweets department, Christmas makes up for.  Let me just lead-off by saying that I have never wrapped so many food gifts before.  I guess that's what running the most popular food blog on the Internets will lead to.

Airing my grievances on a gigantic turkey leg for plate 1

The turkey

My usually really good mashed potatoes were just ehh IMO

The stuffing was really good though

There was a debate over whether it's called stuffing or dressing.  The argument is that if it's not stuffed inside the bird then it's dressing.  However, after doing no extensive research, I believe it should be called stuffing and that's it regardless of plate placement.  Dressing is what you put on a salad.  If there was a salad with this meal and you say "please pass the dressing" the person will be all like "wtf?"

Plate 2 leftovers

Ok, so, I complained about this after Thanksgiving and I'm complaining again: what in the name of Jared Fogle's black market pornography business is up with the DAMN DINNER ROLLS???  These came from Fresh & Easy and the night of the meal they were okay, unspectacular, but then the next day?  Hard as a rock.  I could have thrown it through a window and it would have been the equivalent of a baseball.  

Plate 3 leftovers and a Christmas Sandwich

The thing with leftovers is that the longer they're around the more disgusting they tend to look regardless of how delicious they may be.  The above plate, my dinner from last night, was awesome.  

An Oreo cake-pie thing

The turkey all sliced up

An appetizer of summer sausage, jalapeno cheddar, smoked cheddar, Havarti, rosemary crackers, and Bugles

Of course nothing says Christmas like some hot chocolate topped with whipped cream and marshmallows

I've got a lot more to share, mostly surrounding the sweets, but I'll save that for another post.  I had a great holiday with my family and I hope you did as well and ate some really good gourmet.  And oh yeah, only in San Diego can you have Christmas on a sunny 72 degree day.  

Thanks for reading and happy holidays!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Top 10 Favorite Pictures of the Year

Been a year of fun photos, fun food, and fun stories, so here's a series of some of my favorite pictures of the year and why.  Keep in mind - these aren't necessarily in order.  It's hard to assign official ranks.

10. All Thanksgiving Dessert

Layers of cake, bananas, blackberries, orange and black cherry Jello all held together by whipped cream and topped with kiwi and maraschino cherries.  This was something I made for Thanksgiving and it's a different version of the more well known red-white-blue All American Dessert that's made for July 4th. 

9. Greg's Gourmet - The First Shirt

Come on - this is awesome.  There's nothing quite like seeing your name and animated self on a t-shirt.  Ironically, I've never taken a full picture of myself in one of these.  There's video, but no stills which is kind of ironic considering I've always demanded my fans to send me pictures of them wearing their stuff.

Just the story alone is enough to make it one of my favorite pictures of the year.  It's a good conversation starter in alternate dimensions and when my sister took the jar, it leaked in her car.  How can you go wrong?

This is an armed castle constructed of like 8 churros, ice cream, and whipped cream.  If only the churros had tasted as good as the picture looks.  

What sets this steak aside from all the others that I ate at the All-You-Can-Eat Prime Rib Buffet for $11.75 is its size, color, and I distinctly remember it being absolutely delicious.  Plus there had to be some steak picture in this group.

Also known as Taco Yucky, this was my first taste of octopus and it was really, really good.  What I like about this picture is that it captures the action with us attempting to flip one of the balls so it cooks on both sides.

This was from a meal at Phil's BBQ and while I would always take a beef hamburger over turkey and can't stand onion rings, you can't deny the awesomeness of this picture.  The sheer size of this thing is just astounding.  It's so big that we're in it right now.

This is just delicious.  Giant turkey leg, mashed potatoes, and stuffing.  How can you go wrong?

Whipped this beauty up for my dad's birthday.  It's got ham, turkey, 4 types of cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions on one side, and a variety of seasonings.  My sandwich is bigger than Jared's sandwich.

Even bigger portions of turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing on what I believe is the greatest meal of the year: Thanksgiving!


I had this only a few days ago and it's already one of my favorite pictures.  The guy behind the counter gave me way more than he should have and for only 5 dollars this thing is a steal.  It took me two meals to eat it all and then I suffered from indigestion for most of the next day.  It might have had something to do with the fact that I finished the meal at 11 at night right before bed so it was just sitting there for 7 hours and then went to work when I woke up, but that clearly isn't logical.  

What I love about this picture is that it looks as gross as it tastes.  Sometimes you can't find words to describe things and would prefer to let the picture do the talking and this is one of those cases.  I mean, that soda has lumps.  LUMPS!!!

Looks gorgeous, tasted just eh.  I still ate it of course.

Back in the 90s my family experimented with a plush toy based off of our golden retriever, Jodie.  Naturally, Jodie's slobbering tendencies were the inspiration. 

A really tasty pepperoni pizza.  No explanation necessary.

The In-N-Out Epic 4x4

In-N-Out used to make your burger as large as you wanted it, but I think they capped it at 4.  Maybe next time I'll see if I can go for the 5x5 and really push it to the limit. 

Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Greg's Gourmet - The ".com" Website!

Ever since Greg's Gourmet began to take on a personality of its own, I've been interested in exploring the prospect of converting it to a .com. website.  I've been learning HTML, CSS, and Dreamweaver the past few months and have put together my first attempt at a site that I coded myself.  Check it out at:

For a total newb at coding I think it's a noteworthy effort.  I took similar pages from here and recoded them for the site.  You'll also find some familiar pictures and videos.  Now that I know that I can successfully code, I'm thinking of buying a domain so I can drop the "blogspot" and just make it "". is already taken so it would need to be something more unique.  I don't really want a .org or .net since .com is the most easy to remember.  And just FYI, the above website was from a free provider which is why it has the funky domain.  What do you think?

Oh, and check out this amazing meal from Albertsons:

Good for you, good for you

Look at this thing!  5 bucks!  BBQ wings, potato wedges, and mac n cheese.  I was only able to eat half of it because it was so dense with starch and other artificial crap.  I'll finish it later of course, but WOW!  Holy crap is an understatement.

And heck, here's some more gourmet for you from the Great Plaza Buffet, told in typical 5-act story format:

Leading off we have steak, potatoes, and garlic bread

Plate 2: three types of chicken, more steak, more potatoes, and white rice

Transition plate: salad, pizza, and honey chicken

Plate 4: fruit and Jello

Plate 5: pudding, cream puffs, Jello, and some sort of mocha chocolate tart

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Sandwiches


1. The winner of the November Shirt Giveaway is Paige Stone out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida!  Scroll down to see the complete story.

2.  Following Tuesday's post, Top 5 Best Snacking Foods, I received an e-mail from a YoCrunch representative regarding the "Strawberry Yogurt Topped with Chocolate Things." I was informed that YoCrunch is no longer associated with Breyers, so that explains why the product was discontinued.  I've updated the post with a photo of their current product that they cordially requested.  See what happens when you get on my good side?  I don't have to troll you like I do with Vons or Jack Link's Beef Jerky.

Anyway, one of the special delicacies of the holiday season is the phenomena known as Christmas Sandwiches.

A quartet of Christmas Sandwiches the day after Thanksgiving

What is a Christmas Sandwich?  It's turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, (and cranberry sauce if you want), packed into a buttered dinner roll and eaten like a sandwich.  They're delicious, but they do have their issues.  The first is that such a combination of leftovers is rare.  How many turkey dinners do you have throughout the year after Thanksgiving and Christmas?  I have maybe one other.  The second problem is that the sandwich is almost entirely dependent on rolls and if the rolls you have aren't any good then you could have a heck of a problem.  Last year my family had that issue when Lake Murray Cafe sold me a dozen half-baked dinner rolls and I subsequently boycotted them for almost year before returning and then being underwhelmed again with their beyond insulting penny pinching ways.  

Those four sandwiches are built on three different rolls that all turned out to be mediocre.  Still, at least they didn't ruin our appetites/make us sick like Lake Murray's did.  

But anyway, the last thing is that Christmas Sandwiches aren't particularly attractive.  I mean, just look:

Even though these are carefully crafted by yours truly, they don't have the same appeal that a beautiful Thanksgiving plate has.  But once you bread together these bad boys - they're like nothing else.  

I can't remember where I first learned about Christmas Sandwiches.  It may have been on one of the morning shows I used to listen to either out of the Bay Area or Sacramento.  I did not invent this concept.  At least I'm pretty sure I didn't.  

And you can call these whatever you want.  Holiday Sandwiches.  Seasonal Sandwiches.  Chanukah Sandwiches.  Dick Clark Sandwiches.  I call them Christmas Sandwiches because I think the first time I had one was from the Christmas leftovers so the name stuck.  

As I mentioned above, the winner of the November Shirt Giveaway is Paige Stone out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida!  Paige sent in a few pictures and, really, they all looked awesome but I elected to go with this one for a few reasons:

These are Prince Edward Island Mussels from a place called Seasons 52.  The quantity looks good and, honestly, even though this is shellfish, I would try it.  Being in the picture is also bonus points. 

Also, I'd like to introduce my smallest fan with the biggest heart who wanted to pose in this picture specifically for Greg's Gourmet:

This is Emma posing in front of a stack of homemade chocolate chip pancakes (for dinner, no less!), and as I'm told, she demanded cordially insisted that she be in the picture.  On behalf of the Gourmet staff, we're honored to have her grace the site!  Emma is the daughter of Columbus, Mississippi photographer Addie Talley, whose blog features her spectacular photography sessions.  If you live in that area or simply want to see some sharp photography, do check out her blog!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Top 5 Best Snacking Foods

Here's some food for thought: Okay, so, you know how PETA always releases those videos from slaughterhouses where someone goes in undercover and tapes the workers beating the crap out of the animals and whatnot?  I had a thought - how is it that all of these undercover people keep getting in?  I can just imagine the slaughterhouse curator: "Your whole family wants the grand tour of the slaughterhouse?  WHY SURE!  Lemme just get this pole out of this pig's butt and I'LL SHOW YOU AROUND!!!!"  But really, how do these people keep getting in?  You'd think a slaughterhouse would be a pretty restrictive place...

Anyway, onto my top 5 favorite snacks.  For this post I thought about the snacks I ate as a kid and still eat now and took into consideration taste (duh), how filling it is, and whether or not I've ever gotten tired of it.  If you know my eating habits, you'll know that I like to try new things.  I easily get tired of the same thing over and over, so I diversify as much as possible.  Josh in Madagascar, for example, would always order this thing called the California Chicken, no avocado, from the UT Grill.  It was basically a grilled chicken sandwich and he would buy it every time and every time I would ask him why he never got anything else.  And then he would troll me with something like "so I can hear you whine like a little bitch."  But anyway, onto the list.

1. Peanut Butter Crackers

For as long as I can remember I've always loved peanut butter crackers of any variety.  If I had to pick a particular favorite it would be Ritz and a peanut butter where you have to mix the oil in because I find those brands more flavorful.  But really - Saltines, Club, and everything in between works.  It's hard to screw up the awesomeness that is peanut butter and crackers.  I've been such a fan of these for so long that I remember Rolf Geezen's mom once gave me a box of those Austin brand peanut butter crackers for the holidays since whenever I'd go over to his house that's always what I'd go for.

2.  Scone

I never knew these things existed until I discovered the brilliance (for the most part) of Charlie's Best Bread.  A scone is basically a giant chocolate chip bread cookie thing.  They're big, they're sugary, and they're delicious.  Not to mention that they're satisfying and filling.

3.  Bowl of Strawberries

I've been a strawberry junkie since forever ago, but the problem is that these things are only in season a few months a year.  Yeah, you can purchase them year round, but rarely do you get the same flavor in December as you would in July.  You can also determine the flavor range of a box of strawberries by their scent.  If you put a box to your face and can't smell anything then that means the berries are no good.  If they have a scent then that means they have flavor, and the stronger the scent the better the flavor.  Don't be fooled by their looks - beautiful berries can taste like crap and crap berries can taste like awesome.  Check out this post for more information on strawberry preparation.

4.  Bugles

Up until recently I thought these things had long been discontinued but then they magically surfaced at Target and I now remember why they're so awesome.  They're not exactly chips but they're not exactly crackers.  They're in a league of their own.  They taste like Fritos and have more salt than the Pacific Ocean, but man these things are good.  As a kid they were terrific and now they're even better.

5.  Yocrunch Strawberry Yogurt topped with Chocolate Things

Easily the best product in the yogurt section and I'm pretty sure it's all but discontinued.  For a while this was the only thing I would eat in the mornings.  For some reason my body doesn't respond well to breakfast if I wake up early and haven't gotten X amount of hours of sleep.  It's weird.  And since I'm not really disciplined at getting to bed early, this would happen frequently.  Then I started eating this stuff for breakfast and it was incredible.  It tasted delicious, it woke me up, and it never gave me stomach issues.  I know what you're thinking - "Greg's Gourmet??? Yogurt???"  But this stuff is so packed with sugar and other junk it's more like a smoothie in yogurt form.


I received an e-mail from someone at YoCrunch informing me that the company no longer associates with Breyers, so that's why there's no more Strawberry Yogurt Topped with Chocolate Things.  But here's a picture of an item they do produce that you can get at your local grocery that tastes just as good:

See what happens when you get on my good side?  I advertise for you!

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Gatorade Mafia

When you're a kid you make up all these secret codes and organizations and think that, above all else, the stuff that you imagine is actually legit.  The Gatorade Mafia was no exception.  In fact, you could say it was pretty much the most legit governing organization in the world during its hay-day.  It was unofficially formed in April of 2001 by The Cup and yours truly and earned its name due to our love of Gatorade and the fact that dubbing ourselves as the mafia was totally badass.  Gatorade Mafia.

Joe won the Oscar, so he could stay

What were our views?  What did we stand for?  What did we do?  Well we spent a lot of our days hanging around Highlands Park, eating junk food, talking trash to ball players behind the backstop, and generally causing mischief for everyone caught in the middle, or at least that's what we liked to believe.  In reality we were just your usual kids pretending to be more central figures than we probably were.


Me/Cyrus - During this time I was a big fan of the movie Con Air, so I thought it would be cool to name myself after John Malkovich's psychotic serial killer character, Cyrus the Virus.  Cute, right?

The Cup/Tank - The Cup was a big fan of the Matrix and Tank is a tough guy name, so it just made sense.  At some point he changed his nickname but I can't recall to what.  Maybe Neo?

Rolf Geezen - Rolf actually moved before the "formal" dubbing of the Mafia, so he's a retroactive member as he was a regular at the park and in our mischief.

Mongoose/Wayne the Pain - Mongoose was a kid I had known since kindergarten and he regularly walked or rode his Mongoose mountain bike up to Highlands and we'd talk about the important things in life, such as Goldeneye 64, The Mummy, and Cinemax.  You know, the usual stuff.

Fuxton - Ok, so this kid's last name was Buxton and I think it was one of The Cup's brothers who made the connection that "Bux" rhymes with something else, so he earned the dubious distinction.  I didn't really know much about this kid as he was friends through The Cup, but man, this dude was weird.  He would say the most bizarre things, like he attached his bike to his dad's car and rode on the freeway or something?  He was clearly a naturalized citizen from Planet WTF.

Burn - It's kinda weird how you can develop friendships with kids outside of school but when you're on campus it's like you don't even know each other.  I forget why this kid semi-regularly came to Highlands.  I guess his brother played baseball or something.  But we became pretty good pals during those Highlands days, as he, The Cup, Mongoose, and I would form the most scary gang of middle schoolers the world had ever seen.

Barry Bonds - The Home Run King's son would sometimes play ball here and occasionally he'd make an appearance with his posse of bodyguards and dogs.  One of those dogs barked at me once, so that pretty much made us best friends and close Mafia members ever since.

While we were a pretty good clique, we were unique in the sense that we didn't hang out at school...Mafia members can't be seen together in public.  But seriously, The Cup went to school elsewhere and Rolf Geezen was always in the opposite lunch period than I was so we didn't see each other during school.  But there was just something about hanging out at Highlands that brought out the tough guys in us, or at least we thought.  Maybe it was the fact that there were barely any kids  in our neighborhood that were our age, so there was no competition.  It's a kid thing.

There were weekends where we'd spend the whole day at the park as there were games starting early and ending late.  The basic weekday for us would be heading down to the park around 4:30.  Around this time the games were getting underway, people were there, and one of my favorite places ever was open: The Snack Shack.

It's that building on the left.  I don't have a close-up and the Internet has pictures of everything except that one spot.  Go figure.

We were regulars at the Snack Shack to the point where we memorized every item they had as well as the price.  I knew that a dollar would get me 20 Giant Now-and-Laters, and I'd ask for five of each flavor much to the cashier's aggravation.  Our usual meals, however, consisted of a hot dog and/or nachos and a bottle of delicious Gatorade (of course).  The baseball diamond on the right is where we usually would talk trash to the players and umpires from behind the backstop.  You know how sometimes when umpires call strikes they go like "RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHSTRIIIIIIIIIKERAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!"  Every time one would sound off we'd do the same behind the scenes.  Yeah, we were jerks.  

There was also a pay phone that's since been removed where we would make prank calls to the operator on. It was funny because when you're a kid you don't think an adult is gonna insult you, but when we would call these people up and just speak nonsense to them, it would be really funny to hear their reactions.  Some would just hang up, others would laugh, and a few would actually insult us right back.  But anyway, we'd eat, we'd be annoying, and we'd discuss how the Gatorade Mafia is the most prestigious governing power in the world and would think of ways to expand our influence.  Then we'd go home and do our homework.  

Occasionally we'd stumble upon really weird situations that even our influential politics couldn't quite figure out.  This one time after a game this little kid, maybe 6 years old, was riding his bike on the baseball diamond, no helmet, giving us the finger, and saying "haha you can't kill me!"  As if that wasn't creepy enough, this kid had a giant scar going down his face and resembled the little boy version of Chucky.  Seriously, I'm not joking.  If Chucky was born from a woman he would have grown up to be this kid.  To the day I have no idea what this kid's deal was.

And then there's the time that I was there on my own, eating some candy, hanging out.  Then as I started home this girl from the playground spoke out to me.  "Hey, is your name Eric?"  she asked.  I said no.  She responded with "Oh, too bad.  People named Eric are cute."  I walked home furiously thinking she had just called me ugly.  It took me years to finally realize what had really happened.  Look, don't play games with us. If you want to tell us we're cute, then tell us we're cute.  We don't have time for this silly Eric bullcrap.

I think above all else the Gatorade Mafia gave that sense of involvement that every kid wants.  Involvement in what?  I have no frickin' clue.  We ate junk food, we drank a lot of Gatorade, and we enjoyed spending our childhood hanging out at Highlands.  Who could ask for more?

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Super Size Me vs. Fat Head - An Uncritical Review

A couple of announcements real quick:

1) The winner for the November Shirt Giveaway will be announced shortly.

2) You'll notice that the background of the site is going through some changes.  I'm experimenting with different patterns and gradients and colors because the black wasn't working anymore.  The only reason it was black in the first place was due to the original template color and I wanted the food pictures to stand out against the dark background.  But seeing how the site has evolved, it needed a more lively color.

You know those movies that you can watch over and over and never get tired of?  Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.  Back to the Future.  The original Star Wars trilogy. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  The threesome scene in Wild Things.  Well here's one of mine that's a little more unusual: the 2004 Academy Award nominated documentary Super Size Me by Morgan Spurlock.

I'm not lovin' it, I do love it

If you've never seen it then you've likely heard of it: Spurlock conducts an experiment where he eats nothing but McDonald's for a month, three square meals a day.  The goal of the experiment was to prove that fast food, specifically his target McDonald's, is the main culprit in America's rising obesity epidemic and that the companies are "knowingly serving us unhealthy food" or "not doing enough to fix the problem", whichever reason sounds better to you.  After the 30 days of living every kid's dream, Spurlock had gained 24 pounds and nearly killed his liver.  To no one's surprise, McDonald's eliminated the Super Size menu shortly after the film was released and since then the whole "fast food companies need to give us healthy food" movement has forever changed the way we see McDonald's.  

First of all, why do I love this movie?  Because the premise is just so awesome.  Eating McDonald's for 30 days?  I don't care what the reason is for.  He could be doing it in an effort to resurrect Stalin, but the idea of eating nothing but Big Macs and Double Quarter Pounders for a month is awesome.  Second, Spurlock is a really entertaining guy.  He comes up with witty one liners on the fly and presents what would be otherwise boring information in an entertaining light.  Lastly, and this is more of a technical aspect: the sound.  Sound in film, in my opinion, is the gateway to creating a more involving experience with your audience.  For this movie, you hear every wrapper crinkle, every burp, every bite, every crunch.  That's probably why whenever I watch it I get really, really hungry.  Even in that scene where Spurlock pukes up his lunch - I love it.  

But then there's the other side of the coin as to what he was trying to prove.  I've voiced my displeasure on this site numerous times about people who complain about the healthiness of fast food.  Look, if you're going to McDonald's for a "nice healthy salad" then please stop reading this site.  I can't even stand to look at you.  People will and have argued that Super Size Me was some kind of propaganda film to take down the big fast food companies with lies and deceit and misinformation.  Others say it proves that fast food is a key reason, if not THE reason, why two-thirds of Americans are overweight.  I say both of those arguments are wrong and I'll tell you why: Fast food is just that - fast.  Its main attraction is that it's there when you need it, it's convenient, and it's cheap (unless you're getting a grilled cheese at Wendy's.  Four dollars my ass).  Because of that, it's irresponsible to think that you can live off cheeseburgers 5 days a week and not develop some extra baggage around your butt in the process.

I will say this - I think it's a good idea that fast food restaurants are expanding their menus to include stuff that's not 56000 calories.  But even then do you know how hard it is to eat healthy?  One of those salads at McD's may still include fried chicken and bacon.  And the dressings?  Those things are fatty as hell.  In some cases, one of those salads can easily take up over 20 grams of fat (you should only have about 30 in a day).  

So there's another movie that came out by a guy named Tom Naughton, who's basically Spurlock's Lex Luthor.  The film is called Fat Head and its goal is to rebuke everything that Super Size Me attempted to prove by featuring Naughton on a fast food diet (any fast food, not just McDonald's) for 30 days.

Let me start by saying this production had a tiny crew and all editing, cinematography, and music was done by Naughton himself, so all things considered this thing had really high production value.  However...

I wasn't thrilled with his methods of rebuking Spurlock.  Parts of this are very entertaining, but other parts play more like a slideshow from Ben Stein's character in The Wonder Years. There are extensive sequences of interviews, super extensive scientific jargon where it's more telling than it is showing, and some of his arguments don't make a heck of a lot of sense.  The science part of it I can't really comment on because there was honestly so much of it that I simply couldn't digest it.  

But what I can comment on is the fact that this plays more like a Michael Moore documentary than anything else.  It seems like Naughton is accusing Spurlock of lying and that Super Size Me was all fictionalized.  One thing he argues is that Spurlock's nutritionist (read that, his nutritionist, not him) says he was taking in 5000 calories per day and then went on to disprove that by taking combinations of three McDonald's meals and rarely getting over 3600 calories.  True - those combos didn't add up to 5000.  But is this nutritionist supposed to know all of McDonald's calorie figures by heart?  Give me a break.  The fact that he made such a big deal out of nothing also led to this nasty little blemish:

Yes, while saying that he's a computer programmer and loves math and criticizing Spurlock for supposedly dishing out numbers that "don't add up", this guy actually made a basic arithmetic error in his own frickin' movie right square on the screen.  Now - I started watching this on Hulu late last night and was amazed that this kind of error can happen.  I even thought that maybe Naughton was trolling his audience because it just seemed too perfect that the numbers don't add up while he himself is saying that Spurlock's numbers don't add up.  See the whole sequence here to see what I mean.  I even asked The World According to Rich if a documentarian would purposely put an error in their film to prove a point.  

I did a search on this one item, seeing if there was any information of the error online or if it was some joke the guy purposely put in and found nothing...until I found the 3 minute sequence on YouTube...and here's what it looked like:

I'd say your first numbers were a bunch of Naughtonian Bologna

Obviously an error that he corrected for uploading to Fat Head's YouTube channel.  But I mean - really?  How can you make that blatant of an error?  In your own movie?  Distributing it around the world?  While trashing Spurlock and saying his numbers "don't add up"?  Amazing.  

At the end of Naughton's experiment, he wound up losing 12 pounds by eating nothing but fast food.  In fact, all of his numbers (cholesterol, LDI, TNT, TBS, MSNBC, etc.) went down, whereas Spurlock had gained 25 by the end of his spree.  How is that?  Who knows.  Everyone is built differently.  I would lose weight whenever I went to the All-You-Can-Eat Prime Rib Buffet for $11.75.  Naughton also kept his calorie intake to 2000 each day and walked a few miles 6 times a week.  Spurlock didn't exercise at all and didn't appear to calorie count.

What are the lessons here?  Spurlock thinks fast food restaurants need to be more responsible in the kind of food they sell because even though his 30 day/90 meal marathon was an obvious aberration, there are people who eat there frequently, even daily.  Naughton suggests that fast food can be a regular part of an otherwise healthy diet and lifestyle and that the government's regulations are a bunch of bologna.  However, they both meet in the middle to say that, ultimately, it all comes down to personal responsibility and I couldn't agree more. 

The government ordered all fast food restaurants to clearly display the nutritional information of their products (and even print them on the containers).  However, is seeing the number of calories really going to stop you when you're already inside McDonald's?  Did you really not know about the high fat content or other crap that's found in pretty much every fast food item?  Maybe it helps, I dunno.  But I know exactly what I'm doing when I walk into McDonald's looking to stuff my face with a double quarter pounder meal. 

Speaking of which, I nearly had a Spurlock moment the other day.  I was eating this stuff in my car and, man, that is a deceivingly large amount of food.  On the drive back I thought I felt something about to come back up and say hi...but it didn't.  Hey, that's a new word for the Dictionary - Spurlock Moment.

Spurlock Moment; adjective: used to describe the moment after eating something tasty that it may come back up; puking.

Example: Morgan Spurlock had the ultimate Spurlock Moment when he puked up his double quarter pounder meal in this scene of Super Size Me.  

I'd give both of those films a look.  Both are on YouTube, probably illegally.

Thanks for reading!