Flash in the Pan 

Our hearts’ content

We crouched around the fire, roasting chunks of meat on sticks as if they were marshmallows. Some say this is how language began, our ancestors gathered around the safe warmth and chewing the fat, gnawing the bones, and working on their communication skills.

The big difference between this scene and the way language really began is that around this particular fire there were only men. But you can be sure there were women involved in the origins of language. In fact, one of the many wisdom-filled jokes we shared that evening alluded to that certainty:

Q: Why don’t women fart?

A: They don’t keep their mouths shut long enough to build up pressure.

Such crass clichés notwithstanding, on this night it was the men who were chattering too much to build up any pressure. Yet, inexplicably, that didn’t seem to stop anyone from farting.

We were gathered around the fire that night to welcome a new member into our ranks. His dad wanted a coming-of-age ceremony for his boy, who was perched on the edge of manhood. Influenced, perhaps, by the Bar-Mitzvah tradition of his quasi-Jewish upbringing, the father wanted a ceremony to acknowledge the transition, but without any of the religious baggage. So we did it in earthy pagan style, with cedar, sage, sweetgrass and obsidian. We acknowledged the four directions and then turned our attention to the guest of honor, who was about to become “one of the guys,” with all the responsibilities and freedoms of adulthood.

His father relayed the story of the New Guy’s birth, and we all told personal stories that involved the New Guy, stories that hinted at his virtues. I told about a time he and I went skiing, and how he took a picture of me skiing in nothing but a turban and a diaper (to illustrate a magazine story I wrote presenting a case for mogul skiing as kundalini meditation. The turban symbolized my devotion, while the diaper, made of similar cloth, symbolized that I’m not yet ready to leave the monastery). The New Guy was just a little guy at the time, barely 8 years old, and I was a speed demon on the slopes. We skied every hard run that Snowbowl had to offer, and every time I looked over my shoulder there he was, tailgating, like some kind of heat-seeking missile.

A poem was read. Promises were made, and each of us presented the New Guy with a totem gift to symbolize what he’ll need and what’s in store for him in the grown-up world. Then we feasted.

My contribution to the feast was the heart of a deer I’d shot the day before. I had brought it to the ceremony cleaned and ready for stuffing, and I asked each member of the group to contribute some of their food to the stuffing, in order to create a heart that was overstuffed with our manly goodness.

One of the things that’s interesting about stuffing a heart is how much you can cram in. It is, after all, a muscle designed to expand and contract. In its empty, pre-stuffed phase the heart was probably little bigger than my own—somewhat larger than my fist.

The stuffing consisted of morels, garlic, pesto, beef, spike seasoning, red wine, bread crumbs, sage, potato chips and Budweiser. When it was all mixed together, the sheer volume of the stuffing completely dwarfed the size of the heart, and it looked like there was no possible way it could fit. But as finger load after finger load was pressed deep into the interior ventricles and atria, that heart managed to swallow the stuffing, swelling to larger than a softball.

Coals were raked around a flat rock in the center of the fire ring, and we placed the heart upon it. While we roasted our meat chunks and passed around various goodies—all consumed without the aid of a single bowl, plate or item of silverware—the heart glowed in the orange light of the embers. Eventually a hard brown skin developed around the heart and I removed it from the rock and sliced it crosswise.

Manly greasy fingers reached for the slices of stuffed heart, which we chased with slugs of the finest red wine, taken directly from the jug.

In this way, we each put something of our own heart into the heart of the New Guy. And in its consumption we each took a bit of the New Guy’s heart into our own.

When the fire burnt itself away, the New Guy went to his private camp to reflect on the evening’s events, while we old guys stayed by the fire and worked on our language skills, before finally trickling off to our tents and the warmth of our greasy fart sacks.

Ask Chef Boy Ari: Does everything go better with grease?

Q: Dear CBA,

I just heard something on the radio about fried Coke. That sounds 1) totally disgusting, and 2) kind of impossible. I would think that the Coke would dissipate into the grease, and you would basically have to drink the grease in order to drink the fried Coke. What am I missing here?
—Cola Curious

A: Dear CC,

Fried Coke is indeed a figment of our reality. Invented in Texas by a computer analyst named Abel Gonzales, it’s the newest hit at state fairs around the county. I’m no fraidy-cat when it comes to fried things. In fact most fried things I’ve eaten were quite pleasing to me. In addition to the standards, like fried fish or French fries, I’ve had fried Twinkies, fried Snickers, fried rice, fried ice cream, fried cow balls and fried grasshoppers. But while some would go so far as to say it doesn’t matter what it is as long as it’s fried, I do find the idea of fried Coke disturbing.

Most of this sentiment comes from the fact that I’m disturbed by Coca-Cola, period, be it fried, sipped through a straw or sloshing around an enema bag. Not only is it corrosive and fattening, Coca-Cola has an atrocious track record with its labor policies in South America and Africa, with numerous allegations of violent union-busting.

As far as how you make fried Coke: well, basically, you soak some doughy material in Coca-Cola and then deep-fry it. Some people serve it with Coca-Cola syrup on top. It’s basically a Coke-flavored doughnut, chock-full of trans-fatty acids, high-fructose corn syrup and the sweat, if not the blood, of Colombian bottling plant workers.

Enjoy!

Send your food and garden queries to flash@flashinthepan.net.

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