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Pretzels and Amish Babes

J writes:
If the Amish ever make a cell phone I am going to be the first in line because having experienced their soft pretzels just now I can tell you that they do everything better, not just houses and furniture.

I’ve passed by the Miller’s Pretzel Stand in Reading Terminal Market on numerous occasions but never stopped. Today I made a special trip to try their jalapeno cheese pretzel dog because I wanted to compare it to the Auntie Anne’s version.

I am adding Auntie Anne’s to the list of stores that shouldn’t be in business anymore because not only is their version more than a dollar more expensive ($3.87 vs. $2.75), it is much much smaller. If you control for size, which does matter, the Auntie Anne’s version is almost twice as expensive.

Couple of observations from Miller’s:

First, Amish women don’t react to being called babe. I didn’t call her babe, the guy in front of me did. I suspect he was testing her the way crass American tourists yell at those British palace guards in the funny hats to see if they’ll react, but he must have been disappointed. She just rang up his order and said, “have a nice day.”

Second, the cheese and the jalapeno are in the hot dog, not in the pretzel. It’s a matter of preference, I suppose, but you should be aware going in.

Finally, the hot dogs are enormous. This is not a snack, this is lunch. In a moment of juvenile humor while waiting in line I pondered the idea of being served a giant phallic symbol by a sexually repressed minority who, while I would not have been crass enough to say so, was a babe.

Babes in action.

Maybe I’ll be back again during her rumspringa, although my guess is she won’t be working a pretzel stand in Philadelphia.
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I write:
AREN’T THEY AMAZING?

My sister’s sister (who is pregnant and was at the time) ate a whoopee pie from an Amish farmer’s stand at Cowtown Rodeo and cried because it was so good.

It was one of the most endearing things I’ve ever seen.
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Then I accidentally send this to myself instead of J:
If you were going to make this a post on Cake in the Conference Room…what would you title it?
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I realize my mistake and forward him the above with this note:
I accidentally sent that to myself.

Embarrassing. (also, ever notice how the word “embarrassing” sounds a lot like “bare assing”…I don’t think it’s a coincidence.)
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He ends the conversation thusly:
Pretzels and Amish Babes.

Yes, in a simpler time baring your ass to the world would have put you in a position you’d rather not be in. Then Jennifer Lopez got famous and all of a sudden everyone thought the world would be better off if they had a better look at the fat deposits at the bottom of our backs that shoot out shit on a daily basis. The language hasn’t yet caught up to this dubious development.
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And there you have it.

Easter Candy

After much nagging from me, J sends me an email yesterday with this:

Easter is behind us now, and as a wise man once said sometimes you have to put your behind in your past.

Unfortunately, as another wise man once said—a different one, I swear—my fellow Americans, we are some kind of fat. Putting our behinds anywhere is going to be a challenge.

Easter is probably one of the most confused holidays of the year as people who are not religious suddenly feel compelled to take the seats and parking spaces of regular attendees at churches, families come together for a Sunday dinner that is not eclectic so much as confused and kids try once again to pretend for the sake of their parents that they are idiotic enough to believe that somewhere in the world there is a giant rabbit who defecates chocolate eggs.

In the run up to Easter this year, I read a fascinating story from the Associated Press about why Easter has not become as commercialized as Christmas. The major premise being that both Christmas and Easter are religious holidays, but whereas Santa Clause has firmly pushed baby Jesus out of the manger, the Easter Bunny can’t seem to move the adult version off the cross.

The author ultimately concluded that Americans must feel a certain reverence and respect for the Easter season, since it is the bulk of foundational Christian theology, that they maybe do not have for Christmas  because…well, the article started to fall apart.

As an analysis of the culture wars, I found it interesting. I suppose the next time a Jerry Falwell type gets worked up into a lather over abortion, gay marriage, Hollywood smut or pornography, we can fire back with, “Hey look pal, at least you’ve been able to keep the Easter Bunny from being culturally relevant, so smoke on your pipe and put that in or whatever.

I actually think the reason the Easter Bunny is not as culturally relevant as Santa Clause is because, if you’ll pardon my diversion into crass literality, the Easter Bunny just plain doesn’t make any sense.

As a story, Santa Clause holds together nicely. He lives up in the North Pole with a group of elves who make toys for good little girls and boys. Once a year, on Christmas Eve, which is conveniently ALWAYS DECEMBER 24, he loads everything into a sleigh and leaves it under a Christmas tree and children all over America wake up on December 25 to a bunch of cheap plastic crap from China that will be mostly broken or forgotten about by December 26.

Like any mythology, there are holes in the story, but these have been nicely filled in over the years by an increasing body of Santa Clause literature in either books or television specials with stop-motion puppets voiced by Fred Astaire.

The Easter Bunny doesn’t have this kind of operation and it shows. Somewhere, someone needs to take the whole concept back to the drawing board and address the following areas of believability.

The Bunny.

Santa Clause is always male, always about six feet tall, always old, always morbidly obese, and always speaks in a tone of voice that suggests he’s had a little too much egg nog as he asks you what you want for Christmas. It’s comforting that whether you are watching a movie on AMC or in a shopping mall in Ashland, Ohio, Santa Clause will always be a certain way.

No such standards exist for the Easter Bunny.

Sometimes the Easter bunny looks like a bear.

In real life, bunnies never get too big to hold in your arms if you are into that sort of thing. In some of the movies, they maintain this size, while in other movies the bunny is larger than the children but smaller than the adults or larger than everyone.

Growing up, my mother always taught me that the Easter Bunny was huge and he might break the steps on the front porch on his way up. Given the state of our front porch, I believed her, but in my defense I was five.

In shopping malls and other venues, the bunny is always big but the gender of the rabbit is open to question as I have seen some shopping mall bunnies with curves that suggest they moonlight in that other career opportunity for our fleet footed brethren.

Sometimes bunnies talk and sometimes they don’t. This causes a lot of confusion since, unlike Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny does not have a back story or an approved script. What’s the Easter Bunny version of “ho ho ho!” It’s not there.

Other places go for realism and show kids an actual bunny that they claim is the Easter Bunny, but if I’m a child in America watching this animal with a clear case of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, I am likely going to feel cheated.

Easter gifts

At Christmas, it’s simple. Gifts are always toys (unless you count Uncle John’s box of socks and underwear he sends every year) and they always come wrapped and either under or around the tree.

Easter is confused. Sometimes there is a basket, sometimes there isn’t. Some people give candy, some people give toys. And the baskets go…well I guess it depends on your house or apartment.

But if you got your kid as far as believing there was an Easter Bunny in the first place, the gifts are where the whole thing falls apart, because whereas the idea of an old man producing toys in a factory in the North Pole populated by elves that you can’t see is somewhat believable, only the most gullible of children are going to believe the connection between bunnies and eggs.

I do not know why we are surprised that kids in America fail at science when we spend the early years of their childhood convincing them that somehow a rabbit produces not only eggs, but chocolate eggs at that.

And yet every spring we fill baskets with chocolate eggs and that god awful green plastic grass that gets caught in the wrappers and in our rugs in such a way that no vacuum cleaner can extract it, and we bemoan the rising levels of obesity and diabetes in this country while scratching our heads as to the cause.

At the end of the day, perhaps that’s what will make Easter as culturally relevant as Christmas, because whatever the differences, whatever the faults, whatever the holes in the mythology, the two holidays have a common purpose in filling and expanding our physical presence and make us, in the words of the aforementioned wise man, some kind of fat.

Now who wants pie?

On the road…YET AGAIN

J writes last night (12/7/10) at 7:05 p.m.

The irony of airplane travel is that it is an amazing feat of technical genius, but most of those who fly agree it sucks.

Less than 100 years ago, if you wanted to go from Philadelphia to California you might get there before you died of old age. Kind of gives a whole new perspective to going to visit grandma.

“Alright kids, let’s rustle it up and go visit grandma.”

“But, Dad, she’s 15.”

“Yeah, but I’m pretty sure she’ll be a grandmother by the time we get there.”

Now, with the time zones, you can leave Philadelphia at 8:00 a.m. and be in San Diego before lunch, yet all of us will universally agree that the experience sucks.

We all cheered when that guy from Jet Blue jumped out the emergency chute because while we may disagree on tax policy, welfare reform, abortion, school prayer, whatever, we all felt a certain kinship with a man who had just had it with the whole flying experience.

I fly about 15 times a year and I have for years. Yet until today, I had never flown Southwest. I was always a little skeptical. I mean, all other things being equal, when you pay less for something the quality is less. I may save money by shopping at Wal Mart, but I am under no illusions that I’m getting high quality anything by shopping there.

But Southwest was my option, and so, as they say, “DING” I was now free to move about the country.

Southwest was so pleasant it was almost surreal. When I checked it at 4:45 in the morning the ticket clerks were smiling and it didn’t end there.

Much has been made of Southwest’s cattle call no assigned seat system, and I was expecting the worst. But it was surprisingly orderly, and the Southwest employees actually made it fun, if only because their pleasant demeanors seemed that much more against the surly dispositions of the TSA workers who were waiting to feel me up.

Actually the cattle call where you stand by a pole made about as much sense as the systems on other airlines. I never understood why everyone stands in line for the privilege of sitting in an assigned seat for an extra 20 minutes. But we do. And we complain about it.

The airline was equally pleasant. The flight attendants (who were named, I am not making this up, Vicki and Vic) offered to hold my coffee while I sat down, they held the door open when I went to the bathroom (OK, that one was a little creepy) and Vicky engaged me in conversation that didn’t seem forced and even offered to snuggle with me when I complained I was cold (OK, that one creeped me out too, but I almost took her up on it because I was disappointed that none of the TSA agents wanted to grope me).

So Southwest has actually found a way to do things differently.

Congratulations.

Now who wants pie?

Making a Difference, One Food Truck At a Time. Next Up: McDonalds.

J writes on Monday at 1:26 p.m.:

I’m back from vacation today and my first stop was to my favorite food truck on 6th and Chestnut, the one that I wrote about last time when I complained that he had switched to the thin gyro meat.

When I ordered the gyro today, I noticed that he had switched it back to thick meat. I’m not sure if he reads this blog. I’m not sure if my post had any impact, but in a world where we sometimes wonder if one person can make a difference, I’m proud to imagine that perhaps I did.

So today I’m taking on McDonalds.

I took the family on vacation this week. My kids eat fairly healthy at home. They are not vegans, but they do eat a lot of fruit willingly. When you are on the road though, it’s surprisingly hard to order fruit in a restaurant. So by the end of the week I thought my kids were going to become a Chicken McNugget.

But here’s one thing I noticed. EVERY TIME I WENT TO MCDONALDS I HAD TO BRING MY ORDER BACK.

Did you add sauce? Yes, sir, we put the sauce in. Get back to my table. Nope. Have to go back and get it. Listen, I don’t actually think you put sauce in here, can I get a pack? I’ll have to charge you ten cents for it, sir. WTF? When did McDonald’s Chicken McNugget sauce become its own commodity? So in these cases my kids just dipped their nuggets in ketchup because on principle, I will not pay for a cup of sauce.

They're made almost exclusively of corn!

Then I ordered one of those Chicken Clubs, which are supposed to come with bacon, tomato and Swiss cheese. Got it back, it just had lettuce and mayonnaise. I brought it back with a head full of righteous indignation and even cut in line (I’m sorry, but I had had a long day at the zoo) to announce that they had shorted me my bacon, cheese and tomato. They apologized and gave me a new sandwich.

But the piez de resistance was when my ten nugget value meal only came back with nine nuggets. Yes I counted, and yes I brought the box back. The minimum wage flunky working behind the counter looked at me as if I had lost my mind, but he gave me a new ten pack of nuggets and then watched me count them. And yes, I got an extra pack of sauce too.

I know this seems like a small thing, and on the individual level it is. But McDonalds doesn’t just sell one box of ten piece chicken nuggets a day. They sell thousands or millions depending on the store location, and if they are shorting everyone a McNugget, then they are making out at our expense. Same thing with bacon and Swiss cheese.

I for one am not going to put up with it anymore, and the fact that I have to check my order every time before I bring it back to the table sort of defeats the purpose of fast food.

I’m just saying.
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I point out:

Maybe Chicken McNugget sauce became its own commodity because they read your Ode to Honey Mustard.

Maybe you ARE making a difference…yikes. Better watch it buddy.