Sunday, February 2, 2014

Xan, Catherine, and Kathleen: Turning up the Heat!

[We break radio silence to bring you this special edition of Vongsafood.  In today's episode, we chronicle one family member's lifelong quest to conquer Spice Mountain. Also, Pizza Madness -- that's making you mad with pizza.  And what does a hedgehog have to do with pie? All this and more on today's episode of Vongsafood!]

The rest of this post will not, however, sound like NPR.

Kathleen came to visit us in Chicago last weekend!  As you are no doubt aware, it is a very good idea to hide the spicies before Kathleen arrives. Unfortunately, things were just a little too hectic on Friday and I missed this crucial hosting step.

So, Dad, I apologize in advance for what you are about to witness.  I just screwed up, and I take full responsibility.  Do not blame Kathleen!  She is basically not a player character where spicy is concerned.  Whatever control she may have in other areas of her life, when food arrives in front of her, the spicy subroutine kicks in and takes over.  It goes like this:
  1. This food is not spicy enough. 
  2. I must apply spice until the food is spicy enough.
  3. This bottle does not dispense spice fast enough.
  4. I must remove the lid so the bottle dispenses spice fast enough.
  5. I must shake the bottle harder to increase the rate of spicing.
  6. I must not stop shaking until spice has attained supermajority status.
  7. Spice has attained supermajority status and now controls the spicing vote on plate.
  8. Request further spicing instructions. Food plate constituents: Please advise.
  9. Spice supermajority has voted for More Spice.  Executing request.
  10. Food is no longer visible beneath Spice Mountain. Finally, it is time to eat!
  11. My mouth is on fire.  It burns so good.
  12. [Cough! Gasp! Wheeze!]
  13. Note to self: Inferior airways still not robust to atmospheric conditions at top of Spice Mountain.  Training regimen must continue.
I cannot emphasize enough that these steps just happen.  Sometimes Kathleen doesn't even like it that much, but she has to do it because eating ultra spice is part of her identity.  There is nothing to be done, except stand back and watch with some combination of awe, amusement, and terror.  In what follows, I document a few of these moments for posterity.

Here Kathleen has just executed Step 4:

Red pepper flakes in full pour mode.

And here is Step 5 in action.  Dear reader, please do not try this at home.  A bottle of red pepper flakes with lid removed should never be shaken vigorously enough to produce motion blur:

As you can see, here we are just starting to lose sight of the People's Pepperoni Party.  This is an important step on the road to attaining a 100% Spice Approval Rating from all visible food constituents, and as such it forms the very foundation of Spice Mountain in Steps 9 and 10.

The individual steps of the subroutine are practiced and automatic, and as such they pass by quickly.  But I was also able to capture the precise moment of Step 12 at Dim Sum the next day:

This is her second dish of chili sauce. She has decided to drop all pretense and simply put it on her plate.

Anyway, you might think that next time I will be more careful to hide my red pepper flakes.  However, you would be wrong.  Your mistake is to presume that I still have any left. 

What a rookie mistake!  Do you even know Kathleen?  The more experienced among you are more likely thinking, "But Xan! So far you've only discussed a single bottle of red pepper flakes and a couple dishes of chili sauce in Chinatown.  Kathleen was there for 3 days!  What happened the rest of the time?"

Pepper Palace is what happened.  Kathleen discovered Pepper Palace.

Kathleen gleefully displays her spoils.
Inside the bag: Ghost in the Darkness, Pain 100%, Death Stalker, and two more monstrosities I can't remember the names of.  This kept Kathleen busy -- and my hot sauce reserves safe -- for the rest of the weekend.

Of course, Kathleen also travels everywhere with at least one bottle of her own personal hot sauce.  Don't mess!  She's always packing heat.  Someone should probably get her a holster.


Okay, can we talk about actual food?  There was actually food, somewhere, underneath all the spice.

Is this pizza one quarter cheese or three quarters pepperoni.  It depends...are you an optimist or a pessimist?
Kathleen really wanted deep dish, being in Chicago and all, but I refused to make it, and she was pretty happy with this pizza instead.  Because it is so delicious, of course.

In principle this pizza can be very easy to make but I amped it up and it is now more of a maximally delicious pizza than a maximally convenient pizza.  On top of the dough, we have tomato puree, salt, pepper, oregano, basil, paprika, caramelized onions, sundried tomatoes, cheese, pepperoni, and panko bread crumbs.  (Of course I had my own cheeseless one).

That said, it can be done with as little as half an hour of active labor, if you know all of Xan's secrets of timesavingness.

Kathleen really liked this pizza.  In fact, as is her custom, she "praised" it by favorably comparing it to my past "failures."  "You didn't used to make pizzas like this!" she said.  It is always about my what a long way I've come.   However, in this case she completely failed to negate her compliment, because she compared this pizza to my pulled pork pizza, and we know how certain members of the family feel about that one.  So there! I'll take it!

You know what else? Why does everyone in the family always have to say things like, "Don't you dare tell Linden, but this pizza is the best!"  Relax, Kathleen, why would I ever tell Linden you said that?  She would just be mad at both of us.  Especially you, since you're the one who said it and also you forgot her birthday.  And the rest of you lot: I get it, okay?  Mom, I agree it's best if Linden thinks you "like all of your children's pizza equally."  And Dad, I would never reveal that you bestowed upon my pulled pork pizza the highest culinary compliment you are capable of giving, namely the suggestion that I should drop out of school (i.e. fail to graduate) and make pizza instead.  The point is, I think I'm old enough to keep a secret.  Relax, everyone.

And Linden, you too! Don't blame Kathleen for forgetting your birthday.  Unlike me, she does not have a foolproof organizational system for remembering these things.  She relies on her far superior elephantine memory, which means she always remembers your birthday, she just doesn't necessarily remember that it is currently your birthday.  Also, what do you want for your birthday?  I did not want to ruin your birthday by asking.

See?  See how considerate I am?

I feel like I'm five steps ahead of you people.  I know what you're probably thinking right now: Gee, I really, really hope Linden doesn't read this post...because then she would have to think of something for Xan to get her for her birthday.

No no no. You are totally missing the point.  Linden does not want anything for her birthday, but she also doesn't want to be forgotten.  She wants to be asked but doesn't want to have to answer.  So because I am a genius, I have found a way to ask her without making it common knowledge between us that she has been asked, which means she never has to admit she has been asked, even though she has, and thus she never has to answer. (Unless she actually wants to, in which case she can).

And because I am a double genius, she can also never complain about any of the other content of this post without making it common knowledge that she has been asked and therefore has to answer.  More specifically, she can never complain to me.  She can make all your lives super difficult, but the beauty of it is that I never have to live with any of it.  And that, my friends, is called treble genius, because it does treble damages.


Speaking of pizza and Linden and her birthday, when I talked to her on her birthday, she suggested that I replace half of my bread flour with whole wheat flour in my pizzas.  So I tried it, and the results were pretty good!

It's denser than my usual dough, but not that much, and overall I was surprised at just how well it behaved.  It definitely had that whole wheat flavor, and reminded me a bit too much of bread in some bites, but I will definitely be repeating.


Coming back to Kathleen, I will be in big trouble if I don't mention how good this pie was!  Kathleen and Catherine made a chocolate pecan pie. How good? Really good!

Kathleen said multiple times that the pie was "for me." Somehow her eyes told a different story...

"I wish Xan weren't so attentive. Also, this pie is not spicy enough."
You can also see a gratuitous magic bar on my plate.  Just because.

AND look at this hedgehog cookie cutter she got me!  In the background you can even glimpse a second hedgehog cookie cutter in huff-and-puff mode:

Mmm, delicious pie!
We don't have a lot of cookie cutters, but I don't see the purpose of keeping the rest of them at this point.  I can scarcely imagine a scenario where replacing your cookie cutters with hedgehogs wouldn't automatically improve the outcome.

1 comment:

  1. I have several comments to make.

    1. Obviously I did not shake an uncapped bottle of crushed red peppers. I mean, then all I would be eating would be red peppers, and that wouldn't taste very good.

    2. My face at dim sum was from drinking hot tea after eating the spicy food.

    3. I usually carry cayenne paper, not a hot sauce bottle. It is lighter in the purse. McCormick's!

    4. I do not put chili on everything. My friend cooked polenta with this baked tomato sauce last week, and I ate half before I even tried putting chili on, and then I ate it mostly without because it was just better that way.

    5. I did not forget Linden's birthday. I just forget it during her waking hours, that's all.