September 29, 2006


Pancakes? I could live without them.

Sausage link? I'm more of a patty man, myself. (Patty Man? Band name!)

Chocolate chips? I prefer them in my cookies, not in my breakfast food.

But if you put it all together on a stick?!?!?!?


I am so there. The stick makes all the difference.

Speaking of the benefits of eating on a stick, make sure you check out this YouTube video:

Posted by Jeff at 06:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


There are times when I step back from my life and try to observe it as a third-party, detached observer.

And I think, usually without fail, that I lead a pretty interesting life.

Then I think about my friends.

Yesterday, I got a call from Alan. He's at a ginormous bicycle show in Vegas this week.

Four months ago, he was in a dead-end job and questioning his place in the universe. Today, he's staying in a podunk hotel in the shadows of The Venetian, hobknobbing with fellow gearjamming freaks and so endlessly happy, it sounds like he's mainlining nitrous oxide.

"Imagine 10,000 Alan Snels in one place all hopped up on energy drink and energy bars," he says.

I can't imagine. More likely, I don't want to.

Last weekend while I was waiting for my tragic haircut, I called my college buddy Larry. He's a tour guide in Washington D.C.

Larry was standing in some historic place or another as we were discussing the fate of his Seminoles and my Buccaneers and comiserating about both.

He's taking his three girls to Boston this week to see a Red Sox game. He's from Beantown but he's never been to Fenway. One of his daughters is already a freak for the BoSox. He's going to get to share one of his lifelong dreams with the ones he loves the most, including the Indifferent Teenager who actually asked to go with them.

Then there's Drew. I got an e-mail update about his battalion's work in Iraq. There was this tiny little bit of information in the Friends of the Wolfhounds e-mail blast:

At the battalion level, LTC Drew Meyerowich, on any given day, can be found in meetings with district police chiefs, Iraqi Army Brigade and Battalion Commanders, and local tribal leaders to discuss the same issues. Just recently, LTC Meyerowich was able to convince Three Grand Tribal Sheiks (men who lead tribes of up to 10 million people) to sit down together with him for the first time to discuss the concerns of their tribes.

Then you see a photo of it.

Sure as shit, there's Drew. Sitting with sheiks on the world's biggest area rug.


Then you read on a little longer:

KIRKUK, Iraq - Transferring a safe and secure Iraq back to its people will depend, in large part, on the establishment of a legitimate, representative government. Legitimizing the government may depend on how well coalition forces integrate Iraq's tribal culture.

For centuries, tribal sheiks have influenced the social, economic and political landscape of lraq. They have the people's ear and influence their action. Leadership of the 25th Infantry Division's 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team recognizes this cultural reality and is taking historic strides to give a voice to tribal interests in the Kirkuk Province.

Coalition leaders and elders from the prominent area tribes convened a historic meeting in the Hawija District Sept. 20 to discuss tribal needs and concerns, and to develop approaches to include tribal interests in the development of the district's future.

Hawija is located in the Kirkuk Province and has been the scene of significant opposition to coalition forces this year. In the Hawija District, several influences compete with democracy according to Lt. Col. Drew Meyerowich, battalion commander, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3lBCT. One of the most significant influences is the tribal leaders.

"The people in this province have lived thousands of years within a tribal system," said Meyerowich. "So when you are trying to help provide a representative government in a society where tribal grand sheiks are the ones that historically provide for the people, [our effort] will not be successful unless the tribes are a part of the process," he emphasized.

The meeting was the first such cooperative meeting between American military leaders and the heads of each prominent tribe. Each sheik confirmed that never before had they all gathered under one roof with American military leaders to discuss solutions to the tribes'
mutual concern over a lack of inclusion in the future of Iraq.

During the meeting, the grand sheiks expressed their need for fair representation in local and regional government, and their mutual desire to have a role in reconstruction. Afteward, elders shared a traditional meal with their American military guests as a symbol of cooperation.

And then you see him doing the sheik buffet:


Now, I've been to buffets with Drew before. I saw him and his offspring mow through a CiCi's Pizza one time like nobody's bidness. Training courses at Ruby Tuesday's are still taught on how to repair the Endless Salad Bar after a full-frontal Meyerowich assault. But I never thought I'd see him noshing with the Iraqi elite.

Need more? My friend Rod races dogs in Alaska. My neighbor Patrick flies gigantic gas tanks everywhere in the world. My cousin Domonique is a break-beat deejay. My cousin Bruno rescues seat turtles.

My point: Everyone leads interesting lives in one way or another.

Me? I make rack of lamb and roll trucks over. No big whoop.

Posted by Jeff at 08:28 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


There's a fairly hilarious site that interprets the inanities of life depicted within Marmaduke cartoons: Joe Mathlete Explains Today's Marmaduke. In some ways, it's a lot funnier than the Dysfunctional Family Circus panels.

My favorite is sort of a Marmaduke-meets-Boondocks interpretation:


Marmaduke is being cock-blocked.

Posted by Jeff at 07:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


It's all about the cold.

Like this device, which helps you make an ice jacket for your vodka bottles.


* Place the bottle on the Base, slip on the Sleeve and close the three cam locks. Fill the assembly with warm water, plug, and place in freezer.

Mmmmmmmmmm. Ice-encrusted Mandarin vodka bottle.

Then there's this device: a frosty-cold stone that sits in your high-ball glass but doesn't dilute your drink the way ice does.


The Piet Hein Drink Cooler is made of seamless stainless steel and has a liquid core, which hardens when the egg is frozen and allows the cooler to actually cool your drink. They are no larger than ordinary ice cubes, so the only potential downside is that you might have to pay a bit more attention to what you're doing when you toss ice into glasses. Price: $31 each.

Can you tell that I know it's Friday?

Posted by Jeff at 07:10 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


I thought the burger at Frank's was big enough to choke a donkey.

The Burger Cold War just experienced another escalation:


Bob's BBQ & Grill of Pattaya, Thailand has smashed the current record for producing the world's biggest cheeseburger. The landmark in cheeseburger history was created in celebration of the king of Thailand's 60th year accession to the throne and was part of a wide range of events being held all year in Thailand to mark the occasion.

And to think, I've never cared for Thai food.

I was so wrong.

Posted by Jeff at 06:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 28, 2006


Came home last night to find an e-mail from Willie Drye, author of Storm of the Century: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. He was writing from Side Salad's Doppler 12,000 Hurricane Bureau in North Carolina.

It appears Willie's gone Hollywood on us:

From: Willie Drye

Sent: Wednesday, September 27, 2006 4:49 PM

Subject: History Channel


The History Channel documentary that's based, at least in part, on my book will be aired Sunday night, Oct. 1 at 8 p.m. It's been given the title of "Violent Earth: Storm of the Century." It's going to run two hours.

I have no idea what to expect. I was interviewed on camera last summer for 11 hours. It was a surprisingly grueling experience to be questioned that long and to have to be "on" for the entire time. I was very glad when it was finally over. The producer told me that was the longest on-camera interview she'd ever done. So I assume I'll have some presence in the film. But they're not letting anyone see anything in advance.

Jane and I are going to my hometown (Misenheimer, N.C.) to watch it with my father and some people I grew up with, at the home of the man who was principal of the elementary school I attended and also the baseball coach I played for for 10 or 12 years.

I'm feeling edgy, eager to see it and sort of wishing it was over with.

So anyway, guess I'm getting my 15 seconds.



Note: If you miss the show, you can see it again at 12:00 a.m. Monday, Oct. 2 and 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7.

Posted by Jeff at 08:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Drove over to St. Pete today on business and passed this sign:


I still had a quarter-tank left, but I pulled the Big Red Beast into a U-turn and went back to suck up some seriously deflated petroleum product.

I know it won't last forever. I know it probably won't last through the end of the year.

But on behalf of gas-guzzling drivers everywhere, thank you Petroleum Gods. It was a nice treat to pay 40 bucks for 18.3 gallons of gas today.

Posted by Jeff at 12:24 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack


RandyWayneWhite.jpgSo I'm sitting in the back of the ambulance three weeks ago tonight as a paramedic asks me questions to make sure my head's on tight and my brain isn't scrambled.

"What's your soshecurty?" he asks. I tell him quickly and evenly to denote acute consciousness, albeit through gritted teeth. I hate it when people mash Social Security into one word.

"Excuse me," I tell him. "I have to make a call."

I pull out the cell phone and dial a number that was in my pocket.

"Hello?" the voice on the other end says. It's Randy Wayne White.

"Randy, it's Jeff."

"Hey. I had a great time tonight," he says graciously and enthusiastically.

"I did too," I tell him. "But I should have taken you up on your offer to stay overnight in the guest house."


"Because," I said. "I just crashed my truck."

I had spent the evening at his home in Pineland talking about food and meals consumed in exotic lands. A crime novelist and magazine writer by trade - not to mention a former fishing guide - White has a new cookbook coming out. I drove a couple hours south from Tampa to interview him. He threw 10 pounds of pork in the smoker and simmered some peanut sauce for the visit as we sat on his porch and listened to songs by his enchanting and talented paramour, Wendy Webb. He sliced the most delicious mango and avocado I've ever had and we snacked and talked for hours.

The moment that I and my photographer Jay got there, Randy insisted that we stay over rather than drive back late at night to Tampa.

So when I told Randy from the ambulance about what had happened, he was more than concerned. He asked if he could do anything and said that he knew all the best doctors at the hospital in Cape Coral if I needed help.

I told him that unfortunately the only thing I saved from the crash was the galley proofs of his cookbook. The digital recorder I used for the interview had been thrown from the truck in the dark during the rollover. My notes were somewhere in the weeds. "We're probably going to have to do this again," I told him.

"Anything you need, let me know," he said.

A couple days later when Salad Wife drove me down to get the accident report, we stopped by the crash scene. The only bits of debris we could find: the sombrero and the digital recorder, which was sunk in the mud after a couple days of rain. I clicked its buttons but got no display.

But when I got home, I changed the batteries and, viola!, the damn thing sprung to life. The entire interview was intact.

Anyway, the story I did from that night ran in today's Flavor section. There's no reason to put the story behind the story into the paper, but it's more than interesting fodder, I think, for Salad visitors. I know I wouldn't believe it if it hadn't happened to me.

Oh, and be sure to pick up his latest book, "Dark Light."

Posted by Jeff at 12:05 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 25, 2006


Your name is Michael Pittman. You play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Your team is 0-2. You need to win your third game against the Carolina Panthers.

After several years as the lead running back, you are now second-string. Your star has fallen so low, you're now running back kicks on special teams with a guy who was on the taxi squad last year.

Your quarterback threw an interception on his first pass of a game that you desperately need to win.

You're down by 17.

The biggest asshole in team history now plays for the Panthers and has scored 14 of their 17 points in less than a quarter and a half. He's done so by mocking the youth charity banner belonging to your team's celebrated cornerback.

Later in this game, your quarterback, Chris Simms, will critically injure his spleen, requiring a blood transfusion and emergency surgery to remove it.

But you do not know this yet.

Right now, at this moment in the game, when your team is 17 points behind, it's your job to provide a spark by receiving the kickoff and taking it as far downfield as you can.

Running back a kickoff for a touchdown would be a way to inspire your team, which has yet to reach the end zone so far this season.

No one in team history has run back a kickoff for a touchdown before.

That's right. Thirty one years. Nobody.

This is the biggest job you have on this team. There is nothing more important.

True, you have a history of toppling more easily than a Thai government in a military coup. The chalk lines on the field might as well be high hurdles for you. The most repeated phrase in the pantheon of Buccaneer radio announcing is, "Pittman, gain of two on the play."

But you also have a reputation for blinding speed. If anyone can make this happen, it's you, Michael Pittman.

So what do you choose to do?


You receive the ball at the 5 yard line and begin running.


Navigating through traffic, you angle toward the opposing sideline as a phalanx of blockers works to plow you a path.


It does not work. As you've done during dozens of previous kickoff returns, you outrun your blockers. Panthers cornerback Richard Marshall delivers a violent blow and knocks you out of bounds at your 37 yard line.


The impact causes you to collide slightly with Jim Skipper, the Carolina Panthers' assistant head coach and running backs coach. You are five yards deep in their sideline.


This encounter with Skipper gives you time to jokingly high-five the Panthers' liquid refreshment technician.


And to go back and say hello to Skipper.


And to pat the bottom of a competitor as your backside receives similar compensation from another player.

With all this frustration and humiliation, with your team in a horrible hole and you having just played patty cake with the team that just tried to clean your clock in front of your home crowd, what should you do now, Michael Pittman?

Leisurely stroll back to the bench?


Sure, why not?

It's not like there's a game with any urgency going on.

Posted by Jeff at 08:17 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack


Saw this box in the check-out aisle at an Asian supermarket in Charlotte earlier this month:


I have no idea what is inside it - and I'm not about to try it on a whim - but the box held numerous charms for me as an impulse buy:


Okay, so he's obviously suffering from some sort of patellar injury. I love the fact he's wearing banana-yellow chinos. I also love that he took the time - and had the flexibility - to roll up his pant leg before slapping it in agony.

Nhuc khop hoan, indeed.


Nhuc's counterpart on the opposite side of the box is wearing a rather tasteful Gang of Four ensemble.

I do hope those shock waves eminating from her backside are being generated by pain from the lumbar region and not some gasseous rectal emission.

Nice to see that Cao Nghia Duong and Nhuc shop at Walking Staffs 'R' Us.

What are the nutrients contained within the box?


Beats the hell out of me.

I had expected more than 40 milligrams of phong phong, though.

I'm also befuddled by...


...the expiration dating on the side.

According to this, two out of the three expiration dates have passed.

But I guess the only thing that's important is the non-verbal promise that if you imbibe these contents, you'll...


...wind up looking like Barry Bonds.

Posted by Jeff at 08:14 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


"Uh oh. [long pause] I won't charge you for this haircut."


September is turning out to be quite a month.

Posted by Jeff at 08:06 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 20, 2006


BuccoBruceJpg.jpgHow bad are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers playing right now?

This story might give you an indication:

I'm driving home on Monday. I come up to the intersection of Bloomingdale Avenue and Bell Shoals in Valrico. I see a car stalled with its hazard lights blinking in the turn lane. Looks like a red Matrix. It's out of gas.

Directly in front of me, a black Mustang taps its brakes, as if it will be stopping behind the Matrix. He slows, I slow. I look and see that a woman who resembles the Snapple Lady is now out of the Matrix and trying to push it up to the crosswalk. Dressed in her work clothes - knee-length skirt, blouse, heels and hose - she is making almost no progress.

I can't stop at this point to help, since I'm already almost past her. The Mustang swerves back in front of me from the turn lane. We both go through the intersection. He signals to do a U-turn to go back. So do I.

I turn around and park at the Mobil station on the corner. He does another U-turn behind her and parks as the woman in the Mustang with him slides over to the driver's seat. He and I see each other. We don't know one another, but we smile and nod at our decision to help. It's not the smartest idea for me, given how sore my body is from the crash, but maybe this will load me up on a little "My Name Is Earl" variety karma.

I get behind the car and so does he. Snapple Lady gets out to do the push-and-steer thing.

"Why don't you get in and steer and we'll push," I suggest to her. She does.

I go to the back bumper. The guy helping me is still there. We shake hands. He's wearing one of those ridiculous phone ear bobs that looks like a Star Trek communicator on his ear. I'm about double his size and several inches taller. He's in shorts and sneakers and looks like an athlete. He's almost a dead ringer for Terrell Davis. I'm still in my work clothes.

Snapple Lady is now stuffed behind the wheel of her Tylenol caplet of a car, ready to steer. An uncomfortable moment passes as he and I wait for the turn lane arrow to trigger. Two. Three. Four. Traffic is whizzing past us. Then he speaks.

"What's going on with the Buccaneers?" he says.

"I don't know," I said. "I think they're just a bad team."

"You might be right," he says.

"No offensive line. Young quarterback. Old defense," I say. "Anyone who thought they'd be great before the season must have been dreaming."

"You got that right," he says.

Light turns green. We begin pushing. The car begins to move.

At a certain point, we get so much speed that we can't keep up with the car.

"Maybe if the Bucs pushed like that," I tell him, "they wouldn't be 0 and 2."

He laughs.

The car pulls into the gas station and we push it to the pump. He and I shake hands and get in our respective vehicles.

That's how bad the Bucs are playing right now. They're bringing strangers together in rush hour traffic.

Posted by Jeff at 08:02 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 19, 2006



Old dog.


Old dog.


New dog.


Old truck.


Old truck.


Old truck.


New truck.

Any questions?

Posted by Jeff at 06:29 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack


Saw this sign as I drove home on Lumsden Road last night:


A little strange coming from an Irish pub, but sweet and thoughtful nonetheless.

I pulled into the parking lot to see if they had done any other memorials to the Crocodile Hunter on the building.

I didn't see any, but I did see this motorcycle parked out front:


Wait. What's that on the back?


As Steve Irwin would say, "CRIKEY!"

I guess on one hand you have to applaud the guy who owns this bike (no woman would own a death sled with bike nuts hanging off the back and an accompanying testicle-themed tag). I mean, at least he got a tea-bagging reference past the DMV puritans. Props to him for that.

But couldn't he have been a bit more bold? Didn't he have a BALZAC in him to offer in honor of the French novelist? Was there no imagination to lob a NUT BAG in homage to the Nick Palubo slasher pic?

If you're going to straddle a vibrating crotch rocket, you're gonna need to be a little more imaginative, pal.


Porn as a windowshade.

Jonathan Livingston Redneck.

Buc off, pal.

Such a dirty mess.

How cheep can you be?

I'm super! Thanks for asking.

Would you like an apple pie with that?

Hearse so good.

Drive fast, take chances.

Riding with Fab the deejay.

Beware of the Death Explorer.

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right.

My other car is a rocket-propelled grenade.

Live long and prosper. In an Altima.

Just two good ol' boys.

Asshats aplenty.

Nicotine is my crash helmet.

Jazz hands moms.

Ugly lug nuts.

Pretty ballsy.

My honor student can kick your ass.

Garfield mudflaps.

Horse and buddy.

Posted by Jeff at 06:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 15, 2006


CheerwineAd.jpgCame home last night to find an e-mail from Willie Drye, author of Storm of the Century: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. He was writing from Side Salad's Doppler 12,000 Hurricane Bureau in North Carolina.

As a devoted Tar Heel, Willie had more than a small interest in the Cheerwine posting I put up:

From: Willie Drye
Sent: Thursday, September 14, 2006 7:01 PM
Subject: Cheerwine!

Hey Jeff:

For the past couple of days, I've been setting up a new monster Dell PC. I've become so deeply absorbed in various video games and blinding speed on the Internet that I failed to notice that you are or were in Charlotte and had become acquainted with Cheerwine.

What a great soft drink. It was created with the Southern fondness for sweet beverages. It's no accident that the world's largest selling soft drinks were created in the South -- Coca-Cola in Atlanta and Pepsi in New Bern, North Carolina. We do have a sweet tooth down here.

Cheerwine was the elixir of my childhood. I much preferred it to Coca-Cola (or, as we say back home, "Co-Cola"). And it was truly a hometown beverage. It's bottled in Salisbury, which is only 18 miles up U.S. 52 from my hometown of Misenheimer.

You have to understand the place that Salisbury held for me in those days. Salisbury is where we went when we wanted to go to a decent grocery store or clothing store. It's where my dad went to buy my mother's engagement ring. And since Misenheimer was in a "dry" county, you could actually get a beer or a bottle of booze in Salisbury without having to go to a bootlegger and worry about people talking about you in church Sunday.

So Salisbury was to me as Mount Pilot was to Andy and Barney in Mayberry. It was a big deal to go to Salisbury. When you went to Salisbury, you were, to use another rural back-home phrase, "going to Town."

Jane and I were in Salisbury last month when we went home for my dad's 88th birthday. I bought a six-pack of Cheerwine in the familiar 12-oz. bottles. I don't think you can buy it outside of piedmont North Carolina and a few counties in South Carolina.

A few days later, I opened one of them when Jane brought home some eastern North Carolina barbecue for supper. Oh boy, I thought. Just like the old days.

Man, was it sweet. I remembered turning up the bottle and guzzling it when I was a 12-year-old. A few nights ago, I could only take modest swallows with my BBQ. They say your taste buds change as you get older. Alas, I can testify that they do. This Cheerwine wasn't bad, and I'll undoubtedly finish these six and get more next time I'm home. But it wasn't as delightful as when I was a kid, coming off the baseball field, hot and sweaty and eager to plunk down my six cents for an ice-cold Cheerwine.

I'm eager to read what you have to say about Charlotte, which is about 35 miles from Misenheimer. I think you know, I've never been fond of that place. But I'll save my Charlotte rant for another time.



Posted by Jeff at 06:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Gator.gifSo, I’m sitting in this cigar bar at the Marriott City Center in Charlotte. The bar’s named Cutter’s Lounge (like a cigar cutter, get it?). All of a sudden I hear someone in a group at the bar say to the bartender,"What’s a good, big drink that will cause some damage?”

My ears immediately perk to the keywords “drink” and “damage.”

Mat, the bartender, rolls out a martini glass and fills it with something he calls Sex With An Alligator.

I go over to see this train-wreck-in-progress. And Mat mixes the following:

1/2 ounce Chambord

2 ounces Melon Ball (Midori/sour/vodka)

A slight float of Jagermeister.

He pours it in layers in the glass and damn if it didn’t look like a glass of swampy water from Paynes Prairie.

After Mat admonishes that he doesn’t want to sip this thing, the guy downs it in one swallow.

He gladly reports that you don’t taste the Jagermeister. You don’t even taste the Melon Ball. It’s just a nice, fresh, citrusy flavor before you slide through the Chambord.

He gives it two thumbs. Way up.

There was some talk of other drinks… a Cement Mixer… a Pineapple Upside-Down, an Apple Sauce.

But he said that after you’ve been bit by the Gator, well… nothing is the same.

A little bit of chit-chat and I found out Mat was being lured to Tampa to manage a hotel, but was resisting. “I hear Tampa is just like Charlotte,” he said.

One of the servers then chimed in that one of their regular customers was from St. Petersburg Beach.

“Is that a big place?” Mat asked.

“No, not really,” said. “But it attracts is fair share of people.”

It is a very, very small world.

NOTE: So you know this isn't just some Carolina-barbecue-induced fantasy, you can see another variation of the drink by clicking here.

Posted by Jeff at 12:15 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 14, 2006


One session here in Charlotte, "Eating As An Act of Defiance," featured John T. Edge of the Southern Foodways Alliance and Judy Walker of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Each discussed the incalcuable impact of Hurricane Katrina on the city's culinary industry. The loss of such institutions as Chef Austin Leslie and the migration away from the city of so many restaurant workers has been devastating.

JohnTEdge.JPGEdge, an author and quasi-academic who writes about southern food, is engaged in an effort to create an oral history of the city through the voices of it's chefs, cooks, serving staff and others in the food industry. He's also trying to preserve recipes that were washed away from the flood. It's powerful stuff. He says he considers New Orleans to be America's "Papal City of Food."

JudyWalker.JPGWalker talked about how the paper - and her job changed in the wake of the storm. She said that there are so many great stories there to be told that it feels as if, "time is rushing past."

Walker says that the biggest demand from readers of her recipe request column: holiday recipes. Why? Because those were the dishes people loved most.

She and her husband are living in the second floor of their home, which had four inches of water in it (they lived on an elevated portion of the city).

"We have chosen to be back in New Orleans," she says.

Edge and Walker had a joint message: Go back and eat.

If you want to help, the best way is to go back and patronize the restaurants that have reopened. The French Quarter was almost untouched by the flood and the hurricane. Go back, they said. Much of what you loved from a food standpoint is still there.

One bit of good news: Edge and Walker said that the seafood in the area is back in abundance. The crabs are fatter and more luscious, the shrimp are huge and the shrimping industry is slowly finding its feet again.

Posted by Jeff at 04:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


One of the fun things we did on Day 1 of the AFJ conference was taste a bunch of regional sodas that can be found in North Carolina and the other southern and mid-Atlantic states.

Included in that was discussion of regional names for non-alcoholic carbonated beverages. In the south, much of the population calls it "Coke" or "soda," mostly because Coca Cola originated in Atlanta. Northerners tend to call it "pop" more often. At one time in the early 1900s, it was called "dope," possibly because some bottlers included tiny amounts of cocaine in their drinks.

(Be sure to check out this great map that breaks it down by county.) Hillsborough and Polk, apparently, are mostly "Coke" counties, while Pinellas and Pasco are mostly "soda."

Conference organizers brought in crates of soda bottles and chilled them in metal wash tubs to give it that authentic temperature.




This is a "burgundy-red soda" that tastes like cherry cola. I had heard of it before but never tasted it, since it isn't distributed in Florida.

Wikipedia describes it thusly:

Cheerwine is a soft drink produced by the Carolina Beverage Corporation of Salisbury, North Carolina. It has been produced since 1917.

Cheerwine is fairly unusual amongst sodas for what the company calls its "cherry taste and rich burgundy color." Cheerwine has a very sweet cherry flavor and an unusually high degree of carbonation compared with many other soft drinks.

Cheerwine typically comes in a 12 fluid oz aluminum can, 12 fluid oz glass bottle, a 16 fluid oz plastic bottle, or a 20 fluid oz plastic bottle. Cheerwine distributed in the glass bottle contains cane sugar, instead of the typical corn syrup. There are also ancillary Cheerwine products, including a line of ice cream products flavored with Cheerwine, co-branded by Cheerwine and Food Lion grocery stores.

As for the name, the company site explains "In the early 1900s, soft drinks were often named for their appearance, hence the names root beer and ginger ale. Therefore, it made sense to name a burgundy-red, bubbly, cherry concoction—Cheerwine."

I liked this bottle a lot, mostly because I drank Cherry Coke as a kid after it was reintroduced.


Sue Havala Hobbs of On The Table in Chapel Hill, N.C., tries a sample.



Blenheim Ginger Ale

This soda came in two varieties, hot and extra hot.

Where does the heat come from? The ginger.

You'll notice that the hotter version is darker. That's because it has more ginger in it.

A Web site I found reprinted text from a company brochure:

Blenheim Bottlers

We make Ginger Ale
the Old fashioned Way...
Since 1903

Welcome to the oldest, smallest and some say best, independent bottling company in America. Located next to the Blenheim Artesian Mineral Springs, the bottling plant is today much as it was when it began production in 1903.

The mineral springs were discovered in 1781 by James Spears, a Whig, who was trying to escape Tory troops. According to legend, Mr. Spears lost a shoe in a water hole. When he returned to retrieve his shoe, he tasted the water and noticed its strong mineral content. Word of the spring spread and soon people were coming to taste the cool refreshing water. Several wealthy plantation owners built summer homes in the vicinity of the springs.

In the late 1800's Dr. C. R. May advised his patients with stomach problems to drink the mineral water. When these patients complained about the strong taste of the mineral water, Dr. May added Jamaican Ginger to it.

In 1903, Dr. May and A. J. Matheson opened the Blenheim Bottling Company. The building which houses the bottling works today was constructed in 1920. While the Original Extra Pale was hot enough for some, our 1903 has surpassed it in popularity.

We learned that in Chapel Hill, students like to mix bourbon with the Blenheim to make "Kentucky Yuppies."



Senorial Sangria

This sangria-flavored soda is favoried by the ever-growing population migrating to the Carolinas from Cental America and the Caribbean. It actually tasted like mild, fizzy sangria. Which, you know, is never a bad thing.



Dragon Fruit Drink

This was a much more viscous beverage experience. The dragon fruit mentioned in the name is grown in Central and South America and in southeast Asia. And it had chunks of clear junk in it. Which should violate some international treaty of some sort.

Will. Not. Try. That. Again.

Posted by Jeff at 02:51 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


So I'm in Charlotte, N.C., attending the Association of Food Journalists' annual conference.

What's Charlotte like?

Well, here's the view from my room:





Breathtaking, innit?

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September 13, 2006


There's been a confluence of sombrero activity of late from many sources, all flowing toward the Salad Bowl.

First, Addison pointed me toward this Craigslist personal. Apparently someone is looking for love in all the wrong places:


Nice normal guy/dude, seeking a very nice female friend, for a nice simple friendship. My name is Gordie. I live in NE St.Petersburg and would like to meet a woman between 29 and 44. Just to go out on a regular date, and see if and connections there. Got the symbols and toys, but just choose to advertise my picture on this site. Please reply with a picture. Sincerely, Gordie Jet

this is in or around N.E. ST. PETE

Mmmmm. The ladies love sombrero.

And by look of this pic, some ladies love them more than others. (Rommie spotted this during the World Cup):


Then Katherine sent me this link to a Fashion Week item. (As she put it, "Sombreros are everywhere!"):


Ah, sombreros. Always in fashion.

But the best sombrero item of the week came from my own misadventures.

When Salad Wife and I pulled up to the crash site on Monday, there was still debris strewn along the road. The tailgate. Parts of the truck bed. Even my digital audio recorder was still there, sunk in the mud.

Oh, and one important item was still there.


The sombrero. (It's there on the ground in front of her.)

It's my lucky sombrero now.

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September 12, 2006


New item over at Muttropolis:


Henrietta: The New Sexy Chicken In Town

Very hormonal. Boneless. No msg. Range free. Meet Henrietta: The New Sexy Chicken In Town. Raised on a quaint little chicken farm in America`s Heartland, this bikini babe showed a flair for performing at an early age. As an adult, she moved to Las Vegas with dreams of fame and fortune. She quickly took the town by storm and was cast as a genuine Vegas Showgirl. During her twenty year career she danced in numerous shows and even headlined the now infamous burlesque show Wild Chicken. Now retired, Henrietta lives a quiet life, far from the Vegas footlights, in a swanky trailer park near Fort Lauderdale. Hand painted, poly-filled latex dog toy. De-feathered for canine pleasure. She comes in two sizes.

Price from: $8.99 to $14.99

Personally, I think it's undervalued. It's difficult to find pet sex toys that are aimed at the pets and not the pet owners.

Not to mention one with a backstory.

Hat tip to Pat.

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I don't know whether to be bothered by this or endlessly entertained.

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September 09, 2006



The Salad Sled

In case you hadn't heard, I had a little mishap Thursday night on a road south of Punta Gorda. A 16-year-old driver pulled out in front of the Titan and I had to swerve to avoid a collision. The back end still got clipped and that sent the truck sliding and, eventually, flipping. Came down on all fours, remarkably.

The good news: I'm still alive. The x-rays came back negative.

The bad news: My ribs feel like they've been the target of batting practice. Oh, and the Titan is probably trashed.

Yes, I had my seatbelt on. That probably saved my life and kept me from being flung out of the truck like so many of the contents that had been inside.

But the Salad is going to be on hiatus for a little while as my ribs heal and I get back on my feet during the next few days.

The last image I'll have of the Titan appeared today in 4You magazine. We used it on Tuesday during a photo shoot:


Best vehicle I ever owned. I'll miss it greatly. There's a big hole in the driveway where it used to obstruct just about everything.

My advice to you: Always wear your seatbelt kids. And buy a Titan.

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September 04, 2006


It's official: my buddy Alan is having more fun than words can express.

In just a couple weeks since leaving the Tribune as the sports business writer, Al has organized a major event for his client.

Side Salad will be covering the event and providing full support.


The FAQ about the event, as stated on Al's excellent Bike Stories blog:

What is the Bicycle Bash by the Bay?

It’s a bicycle festival that the Carrollwood Bicycle Emporium and Oliver’s Cycle Sports bicycle stores are throwing at the St. Pete Times Forum plaza. It’s a day to celebrate and promote bicycling in the Tampa Bay area. We think bicycling is great because it can help reduce car traffic, conserve gas, improve people’s health and make our communities a better place to live.

When is it and why are you guys having it at the Forum plaza?

It’s on Oct. 29, a Sunday, from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. before a 5 p.m. Lightning game. We’re hooking up with the Lightning and the Forum because we wanted to have a bicycle festival at a high-profile venue where people are used to gathering. The plaza is ideal because it’s big enough to hold the Bicycle Bash’s various events.

What types of bicyclists do you expect to come?

If you can pedal it, we want you there. We want all types of bicyclists and bicycles to come – roadies and mountain bikers; urban one-speeders and beater bikes; trails bicyclists, BMXers and even low-riders and choppers.

What kinds of events will you have?

Our events will have something for everyone. We’ll have cool bicycle collections; people from our bike stores performing bike stunts; people from bicycle groups talking about biking to work. And even a group that will be accepting old bikes that will be repaired to be given away to charity.

What about the kids?

The Bicycle Bash will be a great festival for kids. We’re having the Hillsborough County sheriff’s office there to stage a mini-bike rodeo where they’ll give away helmets to kids and give them lessons on riding safely. And the kids will enjoy the bike stunts, too. We’re also working with the Forum about leading a kid’s bike ride around the outside of the arena. Because the game starts at 5 p.m., the Forum is expecting more children and families than usual to attend.

And free giveaways?

Lots of stuff. We’re giving away 10 free kids bikes and 5 free adult mountain bikes. Stay tuned for more information about how you can win the bikes. We’ll also give away water bottles and the sheriff’s office will give away helmets to kids.

Any contests?

We hope to have fun trike races for kids and adults and even a bike-handling competition.

What's your Web site?

Bicycle Bash

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We got a phone call yesterday from our friend Susan, whose husband Drew is serving in Iraq.

She and Drew and their boys are never very far from the surface of our thoughts of late. All it takes is for us to read about something or see a glimpse of something on TV to remind us where Drew is and how strong Susan and the boys are being back home in Hawaii.

The six-hour time difference between Hawaii and Tampa has made it difficult to connect with her at hours when she isn't teaching P.E. or when we aren't sleeping, so hearing her voice was like a little miracle.

What struck me first was how strong she sounded, how positive her voice was. Me? I'd be a crumpled Kleenex on the ground if my spouse was deployed halfway around the world in a hostile area, much less if I had to be the emotional rock for an entire battalion of wives and girlfriends and families.

When Drew and Susan lived here in Valrico, she went for training after it was announced that he would be taking command of his own battalion. The rigors of the commander's wife are that intense.

We talked about Drew's weeks before deployment, about how he had to battle his emotions while calling families and friends. She had to keep her feelings in check so that he didn't dissolve and so that their boys would be able to handle his leaving for a year.

Amid all this and with so many reasons to do otherwise, she emphasized the positive during our conversation Sunday. "I can't believe we're already through a month!" she said.

The transition between commands is still ongoing and Drew is doing all he can to re-establish some of the basic comforts like computer access for his soldiers. He's still living out of a rucksack, so sending him care packages isn't really a practical idea. (I'll post information here soon about where those who want to send support can do so. Drew e-mailed me a form letter on Army letterhead to hand to businesses asking for their support - both emotional and material.)

The battalion's readiness already has been tested. In an e-mail he sent last week, he wrote:

"We are doing well and I am overwhelmed by the professionalism that my men display out of the streets each and every day. Our Friends of the Wolfhounds Program is a great way for people to hear directly from the soldiers how things are going in Iraq."

Toward further that goal, I'll include the rest of his letter, which reads:


Wolfhound Family and Friends;

It is almost hard to believe that we have entered into the second month of our deployment. We are very close to completely taking over operations here on our operating base and soon we will be better able to communicate with home. Today, I tasked each company to submit a article with pictures detailing the difficult process we went through to get to this point. Hopefully, it will help everyone see that the Wolfhounds are doing a great job at taking care of ourselves. The companies and platoons have already gotten involved in their respective areas of operation, and they have begun building relationships with not only the Iraqi Army and Police, but also the local leadership and citizens. Strategically, the country of Iraq has come a long way and I am excited about their potential to take over the security of their country completely.

Beyond the strategic level, another important aspect came yesterday. As you are already aware, three Wolfhounds were wounded by an IED while on patrol. They were each doing exactly as they’ve been trained and wearing every piece of our top-notch protective gear, which significantly reduced the injuries they all sustained. Our guys faced the brunt of an IED and though they were hurt, they’ll be back with us in no time. Every Wolfhound in the battalion gained even more confidence in our equipment and protective gear from the results of this incident.

Our Soldiers were initially treated at our Wolfhound Aid Station and then transported to FOB Warrior. It is easy to speak praise of our Wolfhound Aid Station, but I met up with our three Wolfhounds at the Emergency Medical Detachment at FOB Warrior. This Air Force organization was spectacular! Our Wolfhounds received nothing but the best of care and all were doing great when I departed their sides. The care and speed with which everyone operated during this event was flat-out awesome and even more amazing when you consider we are still in transition with the 101st Division.

In the age of email and cellular phones, news of events like this can travel fast. I must personally thank our Wolfhound Crisis Response Team for the exceptional work and professionalism you displayed. As all of this unfolded yesterday, we were amazed by the ease that information traveled through the FRG and Rear Detachment. The transfer of information was rapid, accurate, and stayed within the correct channels. It went far better than I expected our first casualty response would go. That is a testament to you, and the rest of our FRG network. Thank you.

One concern I still have is that as the true information is spread, more and more rumors will pop up. I urge you to have the same confidence that I do in our official FRG channels, and remember that if it doesn’t come from the FRG, then the information is false – period!

A lot has happened in our first few weeks on the ground, and all of us have been tested. As we meet the challenges of our mission, I have great confidence in our leadership, Soldiers, equipment, and support systems. Every one of these have proven themselves extremely effective when it really matters most. I hope you share my same sentiments and remain focused as we continue our mission here in Iraq. I thank you all for your prayers and support. No Fear!

No fear.

Drew, buddy, if that's what it takes to help, you got it. It won't be easy, but we'll try.

All we'll have to do is follow Susan's example.

NOTE: Since Drew doesn't have the capacity for accepting care packages, the Salad will be doing its best to support the Wolfhounds in the meantime.

But first a story:

In 2004, Drew was sent temporarily to Quatar at a planning assignment and spent much of that time in front of a computer screen.

During that time, he and his CENTCOM buddies had the occasional moment to kill. So Drew would check out the Salad on occasion.

When he got back, he told me that one day he saw this posting and started laughing hysterically.


Pretty soon, he was e-mailing the link to everyone in the room. Before long, the entire room was performing an impromptu knuckle-cracking symphony. It was bizarre to check my site's stats by geographical location and see a gigantic spike from the Middle East.

I know that Drew checks the Salad whenever he can, so I'm creating a set of links at the top of the right column for their amusement under the following heading:


If I can't send cigars, Ybor City coffee or fart machines just yet, then I'm gonna make the hairiest man on earth laugh, by God.

I'm also going reconfigure the Salad to limit photos on the site as much as possible to the jump pages so that the site loads more quickly. (To see them, click where it says "I'd Like Another Helping, Please.") The computers Drew and the soldiers have at their disposal aren't the best. And, you know, as long as they're not Dell laptops with incendiary batteries, everyone should be safe.

Feel free to send me links and I'll post them for the amusement of Drew and his soldiers. Also feel free to post messages to Drew on the Salad.

The more the merrier.

Posted by Jeff at 10:14 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack



What if they gave a hurricane and no one got it?

Turns out that Willie Drye, author of Storm of the Century: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, got more from Ernesto in the Side Salad North Carolina Doppler 12,000 Weather Bureau than we did in Tampa.

He filed this report on Friday:

From: Willie Drye
Subject: bu-bye Ernesto

Hi guys:

Ernesto has pretty well cleared out of Washington County. It was more of an annoyance here than anything else. My barometers bottomed out around 8:45 a.m., and by 9 a.m. they were rising, so that's obviously when the center passed closest to us and started moving away.

From the maps, it looks like the center went mabye 25 or 30 miles west of us, and it was a tropical depression by the time it got here. We had a couple of downpours, and the wind somehow found a way to blow rain under our back porch roof and cause a leak in the kitchen ceiling that I discovered when I got up around 6:30. Still, there wasn't much all that much wind, less than you'd see during a bad summer thunderstorm. Now it's still overcast, but very cool and we've turned off the AC and opened all the windows.

Our next-door neighbor directly across the street had roofers working on her place last week, and apparently they didn't know or didn't care what they were doing because her roof leaked so badly her bedroom ceiling came down. We saw a different roofer's pickup truck parked in her driveway after the rain stopped. This guy did maintenance on the roof of our 110-year-old house earlier this summer and knows what he's doing, so I hope he gets her roof squared away.

I think they got it a little rougher south of us, where it came in as a strong tropical storm somewhere around Cape Fear, which is near Wilmington. There were some worries about flooding, and this morning the Nitwitness News crews where standing in the rain in Greenville, chirping and pointing at cars that had stalled in flooded streets.

So that's it for Ernesto.



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September 03, 2006



September in Alaska is an amazing time.

The tourists are done for the year, for the most part. If you live there, you sort of get your state back for a few precious weeks until "termination dust" hits the mountains, which are filled with honey-golden leaves.

And the final salmon runs are taking place.

As a result, my Uncle Pete, (yes, the one who was in the paper posing with a potato he grew that was shaped like a moose), has a bit of a problem on his hands:


He has so much salmon to smoke and so little time before he heads south for the winter.


Clearly it's been a banner year for fishing for him. Again.

He writes:

Just to show you some of the drudgery and pain it is in SMOKIN FISH.~~!!!

You know, we got MULLET back in the Lower 48 but I'm not going through this again~~~!!! Well, not down there anyway.


Really though, it is so much fun, and good EATIN, too~~~!


I remember it well, Uncle Pete.

I remember it well.

Unfortunately all this means for him is that the end of another glorious summer for him and wife Cecile is almost at hand.


Now you tell me!!! Think winter is not far off?????? Early Sept. and Summer is over. Getting a little cooler.

White Stuff not far off,



Wouldn't you rather be me?

Otter confusion.

Ice, ice, baby, Part Deux.

Ice, ice, baby.

Winter's coming. Time to head south.

Space invaders.

A little snack on the porch.

The salmon don't stand a chance.

Fish tales. Big time.

The Last Fuzzy Slipper Frontier.

There's a bar in them thar country.

Flowers are a-bloomin'.

The fog rolls in.

Moose intruder.

On their way home.

Sunsets, salmon and civil ceremonies.

Volcanoes, churches and halibut.

Eagle tree, limb by limb.

A fantasy RV for The Last Frontier.

Heading north to the homestead.

Publicizing moose-shaped tubers.

Posted by Jeff at 11:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


What would it be like if you took a photo of yourself every day for 2,356 days?

Um, kinda creepy and self-absorbed?

An aside: Noah? Steve Buscemi called. He wants his eyes back.

Posted by Jeff at 11:48 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack


What's that axiom about going to a fight and a hockey game breaking out?


Last night I went to cover the Toby Keith concert at the Ford Amphitheatre and a movie trailer unfolded instead.


Keith has a new movie coming out. The show was laden with references to "Hollyweird" and to the film, "Broken Bridges."

Still, I thought he put on a pretty polished show. (Sorry about the crappy resolution on the photo. I pushed my poor little Nikon to the limit from my seat.)


As usual, Keith raised a glass to the men and women in uniform, several of whom were in attendance.


And the crowd happily joined him in the toast. Seemed like everyone had a glass in their hand.

My favorite new concert phenomenon:


The cellphone wave.

Used to be people waved lighters during ballads.

Now they wave their Nokias.

I had a "Bill Hicks moment" with this woman.

Hicks used to tell a story during his standup act about doing a show in "Possum Fuck, Ark." and going into a Waffle House afterward. He apparently busted open a book while he was eating.

His waitress noticed and asked him, "What you reading for?"

"Not, "What are you reading?' She asked me 'What are you reading for? And in my mind I'm thinking, 'You know, so I don't become a waffle waitress in Possum Fuck, Ark.'"

Well, the cellphone waving woman at the Toby Keith concert, who, by the way, was wearing a faded t-shirt that read "Whiskey Girl" on the front, turned around at one point after noticing me taking notes during the concert and asked me, "What you taking notes for?" And I'm thinking, "So I don't become someone who would wave a cellphone with a Whiskey Boy t-shirt on."

FYI, for a larger version of the stage shot above, click here.

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