Monday, July 30, 2007

Beef Jerky

I can’t honestly say that I’ve been on a lifelong search for the perfect beef jerky. I can say I like beef jerky and from time to time have wondered whether I’m getting the best available, especially (as an article I recently saw notes) when it is treated like a poor country relation that gets sold alongside corndogs and transmission fluid at gas stations.

But there it was the other day featured in the august New York Times, “For Epicures, a New Take on Jerky.” I was interested.

Serious research had been done. A list of producers and purveyors of top-of-the-line beef jerky was right in front of me. Topping the list was Aggie Jerky, the result of a scientific investigation conducted by the E.M. “Manny” Rosenthal Meat Science and Technology Center at Texas A&M University.

They point out that Aggie Jerky is pulled off the muscle, not ground up and reconstituted. In addition, it is sliced with the grain (makes it more chewy), then marinated in a salty brine for a week before being peppered and smoked for three days with hickory sawdust smoke. Sounds good to me, thought I.

Within minutes I was online looking for the Manny Rosenthal retail store. It took a while, but I found it and sent an email winging through the ether, asking them to send me a half-pound. That was Wednesday. On Friday my little box from Texas arrived at the door. And I must say, Aggie Jerky is really spectacular. A culinary breakthrough of scientific proportions. Or as the jerky expert says, “Curled husks that look like bark harvested from a magical meat tree.”

Check it out.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Real Football

I didn’t pay much attention to soccer (football or futbol outside the U.S.) until 1978. I was living in New York and heard that this thing called the World Cup was being played in Argentina and that 1 billion people would be watching the final game between Argentina and the Netherlands.

A billion people! This I gotta see. If about one out of every four people on the planet were interested, so was I. Satellite TV was in its infancy, but far enough along so that some movie theaters were going to show the game live. My home was a short distance from one of the locales, the famous Brooklyn Paramount Theater, a huge rococo movie palace that opened in 1928. So I went.

The place was packed, mostly with Argentina supporters. And they were in a frenzy. I was sure that if Argentina didn’t win we were in for a riot. Fortunately for the sake of law and order and my well being, they did win. And I had been introduced to the most popular game on earth.

My interest waned (there wasn’t any football worth watching in the U.S.) but revived again in 1994 when the World Cup was played in this country. In the years since I have become more and more passionate about the game. With the help of my Italian friend and football mentor, Michelangelo, I have learned the strategy and intricacies of what they call calcio in Italy. And with the advent of satellite broadcasts at home I have access to games from England, Italy, Spain, Germany, South America – you name it I can watch it.

So why am I talking about this today? I realized this morning that I am an active participant in a worldwide conversation. At the grocery store behind the meat counter was Fidele, an Italian guy who, like me, is a Juventino (Juventus supporter) and a Barcelona fan who comes from Guatemala. “Did you watch the game last night?” Fidele asked. I knew he wasn’t talking about the All-Star Game that was played here in San Francisco last night. He was talking about the Copa America semi-final between Brazil and Uruguay. The three of us talked football while I bought my salmon, ground chuck and hot Italian sausage.

Later in the morning Sandra and I were out walking. We passed a young man from England who asked a question about one of the old Victorian houses we were passing. He saw that I was wearing my Juventus t-shirt and one of my team caps, this one from Arsenal. So the conversation turned to which team do we support? Turns out he is a Chelsea man, also a team I like. As a matter of fact we will be going down to Stanford Saturday to see Chelsea play Club America from Mexico in a pre-season friendly.

It’s everywhere, this football thing. Wherever I go I can be sure that a football-related interaction is possible and likely. Being part of this conversation is a lot of fun.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Iran +

For years Sandra has wanted to visit Iran, Syria and Jordan. My interest level has been minimal. Why? Just doesn’t call to me. Plus the antagonism between the U.S. and Iran continues to escalate.

Why does she want to go? Well, one reason is she’s a lover of old stones (some would call them ruins) preferably more than 2,000 years old. And there are plenty of old stones in these countries. And she adores mosques. She loved being able to wander around the mosques in Turkey and Egypt and says that her interest in Morocco diminished when she learned she wouldn’t be allowed in their mosques. There are many exquisite mosques in Iran and Syria.

In our most recent conversation on this subject I relented. I didn’t say I’d go. I did say that I’d consider it. Given the lead-time we need to arrange travel using miles we’ve banked in our United account, if we were at all serious about a trip within the next year I realized that I’d need to get tickets booked soon – like right now.

So I did the research and found that it wasn’t difficult to fly from San Francisco to Tehran on Lufthansa via Frankfurt. And it was possible to fly from Tehran to Damascus, travel to Amman by car and then fly to Athens en route to Frankfurt and back home. Decision time had arrived. Do I make the reservations?

I did. I also ordered travel books from Amazon for all these countries, which books will help me decide whether to actually make the trip. Should we cancel the tickets we pay $200 and the miles are returned to us. So the process has begun.

I’m still not committed to going. At this point I’d say the odds are 50-50. Ms Marsh is a happy girl.