• Nothing Rhymes With Minneapolis

    *The better-looking photos in this post are taken by my kid.

    I usually try to give my travel posts clever (in my opinion) or rhyming titles, but no rhyme comes to mind to name this report about my trip to Minneapolis.

    Five months out of the year Minneapolis is an exciting, great-looking, interesting city 500 miles to the North of Kansas City. During the other seven months it closely resembles the Fortress of Solitude – a snow-covered and icy hellhole where people are using an elaborate tunnel-like system to move between the buildings without getting a frostbite. It also houses the first sign of Apocalypse – The Mall of America.

    If you are driving to Minneapolis, the longest part of your route passes through Iowa – Khrushchev’s favorite state. Iowa is famous for its old people and various, not always pleasant, smells along the highway. Iowa’s population is so old that just by driving through we temporarily dropped the average age in the state to 68. To fight the smell problem Iowans installed gigantic fans in random places.

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  • So Easy A Blogger Could Do It

    So you come home with 20 pounds of apples in a bag. No need to panic, I am here to tell you what to do. In about an hour or two you could be eating the best apple cake you have ever tried in your life. In fact, it so good that you will try to eat it all while declining tempting offers to exchange some of the cake for money and/or sexual favors. The cake is called “Sharlotka” and yes, there will be people who will tell you that this is not the right way to make it. Tell them to go f make their own Sharlotka, because this is the one and only way to make it and they don’t know what they are talking about. I would also like to warn “the creative types” not to post here with comments like “I added a pinch of salt to the recipe, some chicken, vegetables and a pie crust and now it’s a chicken pot pie”. I will ban you from this blog without regret.

    For this recipe you will need a baking dish with flat bottom, some apples, 6 eggs, 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of flour. That’s it.

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    Peel, core and slice the apples. If you are a lady, cut the apples into uniform cubes of about 1/4 inches. If you are a gentleman, reach for your favorite (apple-peeling) tool-device.

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    This machine cores, peels and slices the apples in one smooth motion. There is no excuse for not having it. Women and small children love it. Hack processed apples into smaller pieces. Peeled apples may brown after sitting on the counter. If you care, you can sprinkle them with lemon juice; I personally don’t care – it’s a cake,not a painting.

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    Place the apples into your baking dish. Here I clearly went overboard, peeling them was so much fun (unless you are a lady) that I went through a few too many. Don’t worry, you can never over-apple the apple cake.

    Now proceed to separate the yolks from the whites. Whipping egg whites is easier if they are cold and no particles of yolks were accidentally mixed in. However, I did just that (not on purpose) and everything turned out OK. If you are an older person like me you would remember that back in the day we whipped egg whites with a whisk.  It was tedious, boring and exhausting process. Fancy households had mechanical egg beaters, still a hassle and lots of cranking. Then came electric mixers and only here my dream to own a stand mixer finally came true. If you have one, place egg whites in the bowl and slowly raise the speed to “high”. If you don’t have the right equipment you can use any of the lesser tools.

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    You will need to attain stiff peaks (not my stripper name) but it doesn’t have to be perfect. Slowly add sugar and continue whipping. The foam will become shiny and you will not be able to feel sugar crunch on your teeth. This may take 5 minutes or so. P1020193

    Add egg yolks and whip some more.

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    Add flour and get it to blend in, no one likes unbaked chunks of flour in the cake, you won’t get any points for a crappy product. Pour the mixture on top of the apples and spread it evenly.

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    In a 350F preheated oven it goes for an hour. Leave it alone.

    In the meantime you still have your apple peeler out and plenty more apples to use. Add a small amount of apple juice, Sprite, water of other tasty liquid to a sauce pan and place it on the medium-low heat. Peel and slice as many apples as will fit.

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    Pour some honey on top. Do not go crazy with it unless you like it too sweet.

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    Cover and cook on medium low until apples look and feel soft.

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    Use potato masher to make some apple sauce of the desired consistency.

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    Let it cool, it really burns when hot.
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    Now get the cake out of the oven. Test it by sticking a toothpick in the middle, if it comes out clean, you are done.

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    After the cake cools, get your favorite bottle of Homewood Hooch from the fridge and enjoy the cake.

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    And this (to quote John McCain), “my friends”, is how you bake “Sharlotka”.

    Update: My blogger friend Johnna made her own gluten-free version.

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  • Around The World In Seven Lunches

    When I was growing up® we thought that the American food was magically delicious, something like what unicorns would eat, if we knew what the unicorns were. That’s why when we had foreign visitors in our schools, there were specific and strict instructions not to show our guests that we have any interest in  their snacks and especially chewing gum. Chewing gum was worth more than its weight in gold and the sneaky elderly capitalists knew it when they were throwing it out by handfuls from the bus window, just to see the kids swarm and fight each other for the precious sticks. It was not uncommon to hear “Let me chew your gum” from someone in school and they didn’t mean a new wrapped one. Slowly but surely the American foods made their way Behind the Iron Curtain, first it was Pepsi in a long and complicated international deal, then McDonald’s.

    The line to the first McDonald’s was so long, they made a whole video clip out of it.

    Since then most people had enough time to realize that’s not everything is as good as one imagines it to be. Even people who invented McDonald’s and made it in what it is today, a place to get formerly cheap foul-smelling slop, are now looking to previously shunned ethnic cuisines to get their fill of interesting, healthy, unique and delicious foods.

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  • Hardship-Off

    Reader Grace practically challenged me to a hardship-off. In response to my post “How old am I in dog American years?” she writes:

    I was born in pre-economic-Tiger South Korea. We had an outhouse, and took baths in a big tub in the courtyard that my mom filled with hot water. In the winter we went to the neighborhood hot baths (I think they have in Russia too, right?).

    As a simple answer I am posting artist’s depiction of outdoor plumbing facilities similar to what my grandmother had. The water from the well was poured into a hand-washing device and dirty water was collected below for whatever purposes i.e. mopping, etc. Once-a-week we went to community bathhouse for more thorough hygienic procedures.

    To continue the hardship-off submit your own hardship in comments.

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  • Driving Missouri: Nevada

    Nevada, MO has everything I am looking for in a small town – liveliness, old buildings, murals and a county courthouse. In accordance with a Missouri State custom, Nevada is not pronounced the way it’s spelled; addressing it as anything but Ne-vay-duh  will expose you as an outsider.

    We made a stop in Nevada on the way to Bentonville, AR, because we were getting bored on a long stretch of the newly-minted I-49. The only entertainment on the previous 80 or so miles was provided by a trailer home flying a banner with a picture of an automatic rifle and the words “Come and get it!”. Ain’t nobody got time for that! 

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