Thursday, December 31, 2020

Prosperous New Year from A Book of Cookrye!


I know I've shared this card already, but it's just too cute. And the little note on top is unintentionally perfect for the year ahead.

We will be here in January with chocolate, more visits from Her Highness Fanny Cradock, more random recipes from comment threads, and (when we can visit again) fun times with friends!

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

The Thrill of Cornstick Discovery

Other people might say that quarantining for months has made them batty enough to get excited about old pans, but anyone who knows me knows that I was already like this. Behold what turned up in the shed!

Our surprise find is a little nasty and very unfortunate-looking, but if one looks past all the grime, there's cornsticks waiting to happen! All it needed was a bit of a cleaning up to reenter service and bring corn-batter joy to everyone.

It just figures that the back of it would be cleaner than the side that actually touches food.


Insert a cornstick pan into your oven and heat it to 400°. Have a warm basket or plate ready. Make cornbread according to the recipe or mix of your choice.
When the oven and pan are hot, grease the pan very well and fill each corncob almost to the top with batter. Bake until the edges of each cornstick are golden and pull away from the pan, which may be as soon as five minutes. Immediately remove from the pan, respray, and fill with the next batch of batter.
They cool quickly when removed from the pan, so put them in the warmed basket right away.

This pan has laid in repose under a leaky roof outside the house where it caught dirt, insect eggs, odd-colored roof drippings, and who knows what else. The grime defied all attempts to scour it from what was by now its ancestral home. It even resisted the pressure washer that has lived in the garage ever since one of my friends decided to resurrect a dead car. After an increasing escalation of power tools proved futile, we attempted chemical attacks. 

Normally, we would not recommend toilet cleaner as food-safe, but this pan was already unfit for culinary use so it couldn't worsen anything. Besides, we were going to rinse it very well. The bottle said the active ingredient is hydrochloric acid, which we strongly hoped would be the dirt and grime's weakness.

It kind of looks like an artistic color study, doesn't it?

Composition in Gray and Blue, A Book of Cookrye, 2020


Speaking of colors, it's interesting to note that after beating the egg and milk together and then dumping a bag of cornbread mix on top, that yellowy powder was a perfect color match for the eggy milk below. I can't see where one stops and the other starts, can you?


Yes, we're using cornbread mix. It was lurking in the kitchen, and this seemed as good a time as any to transform it from powder into bread.

This was the perfect mixing vessel for doing something that will involve pouring out batter in tiny dollops.

And so, we finally get to the waiting pan! It cleaned up pretty good, didn't it? We inserted the pan into the oven so it could get nice and hot while the oven heated up. In theory, pouring the batter into a roasting-hot pan would give our cornbread-on-the-cobs an extra-crispy crust (and also give the pan a final sterilization before putting food in it). 

Some light reading on the subject of cornstick pans informed us that the corn-kernel nubs in the design give them lots of extra surface area where the batter touches the pan, just like the grids on a waffle iron. This presumably means we will have a lot of crunchy crust. 

You'd never think this pan needed powerwashing and subsequent scouring with toilet bowl cleaner.

As we have learned from many attempts of using old bakeware with porous designs, you don't lightly spritz them with cooking spray. You must give them a good hard KSSSSSHHHHH of spray, relentlessly applying until you have enough oil buildup to make the batter sizzle and almost fry itself on contact. To use any less cooking spray is asking for fate to give you a future that involves gouging out stuck-on bits with a fork while cursing loudly.

For our first batch, we treated these like cupcake pans and left a good amount of room in each batter-hole for expansion. That was unnecessary- it baked at the edges so fast it barely rose at all. The centers, however, rose to great heights. Anyone cornsticking at home can be advised that if you've heated the pan before putting batter in it, you can fill these nearly to the top without any spillover in the oven.

As one might expect when the such tiny amounts of batter are spread so thin in the pan, these things cooked quickly. We could almost see them rise. And now came the moment we had so deeply dreaded: would we successfully extract them from the pan intact, or would we spend the next hour hacking burnt-on bread off of the pan with a spoon handle?

Happily, they fell right out of the pan with only the gentlest of prodding from a spoon handle. We'd hoped for a darker and crunchier crust, and might run the oven hotter next time to make it happen. As you can see, they're a bit smaller than the pan would suggest. I thought they'd be as big as actual (if a bit runty) corn cobs, but they are closer in size to the handles on a can opener. They're not as small as baby corn, but they're not bigger by as much as you may think.


One of the others in the house had made a pot of soup, and these things were perfect with it. Even if they are a bit petite, they're the perfect with soup. The little kernel bumps on them make them more porous, so they're better at soaking up the broth when you dip. If you're making cornbread, a batch of cornsticks is not much more time or effort than just dumping all the batter into one big pan, and they're really cute.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Fanny Cradock Cooks our Duck

Happy Boxing Day! It's my favorite day of the holiday season because it means we can put all the duties of Christmas away. Boxing Day gives us the wonderful traditions of sleeping in, microwaving leftovers, and eating all the candy we bought at a much faster rate than we intended. Here at A Book of Cookrye, we love to go around to the grocery store on Boxing Day and see what meats they're trying to unload.

We have been holding out for discount turkeys ever since Thanksgiving. Everyone we know is saying how their grocery stores have turkeys for 25 cents per pound... or even less. Our Mom of Cookrye reports that she got not one but two-- because they were only 18 cents per pound. However, the store by our house is resolutely refusing to mark them down.  Their freezers are still full of frozen turkeys because no one pays full price for them right after Thanksgiving. 

But... you know what bird they did have on discount? Do you know what bird we could get for a 75% off? A duck!

Baked Duck
1 duck
Thin honey (1 or 2 tablespoons)

Heat the oven to 375°. Line your roasting pan with foil.
Pierce the skin of the duck all over with a fork. Place the duck on its back on a rack that holds it high above the pan. Rub the duck with a thin layer of the honey, using just enough to coat it.
Bake it for 26 minutes per pound. Around halfway through the baking time, empty the pan of the fat that has dripped out of the duck.
To check for doneness, see if the legs move freely and the juices run clear. Put a thermometer in the thigh joint- it should read 180°.

Source: Your Christmas Bird, Fanny Cradock Cooks for Christmas, BBC 1975

I've never seen ducks sold outside of very upscale grocery stores. Perhaps the store we go to had to discount them because no one wanted to buy something they've never cooked or eaten before.

This is why you don't just plonk your bird on the refrigerator shelf to defrost.

I've never eaten duck before. I've certainly never cooked one. But as we were perusing the meats while getting groceries, the price was too good to resist. "I'm sure it'll be fine!" I said. "I saw a Fanny Cradock video about how to cook them!" Fanny Cradock's advice on chicken is absolutely delicious. Surely the duck she cooks in the same episode is just as good. While on the subject of Fanny Cradock, I'd like to mention how much I love bluntly calling it a "Christmas bird." It's not poultry, it's not a main dish, it's a bird.

I told a few of my friends what we were about to cook, and noted a uniformity in their replies.

All we know about ducks is that they are usually much more expensive than other birds. I'm not sure if this is because fewer people want them, or if this means they're a rare treat when you can get them. The only places I've seen serving duck are Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants, though I've heard from a lot of people that a Christmas duck is a popular choice in Britain. Well, let's get this thing open!

The juices coming out this thing were an unnerving, almost artificial-looking red. And there was a lot. Also, why does the duck have this long tail of skin?

Every now and then, while reading cookbooks old enough that the writers told you how to care for your meat while it was still walking on its own feet, I will read the directions for how to carve up whole birds. I will then speculatively eye the more spiteful geese whenever I'm at a park and think about how they couldn't attack me anymore if they were dead and spit-roasted. But then I realize that I still get the squicks when pulling the giblets out of a bird, and those have already been conveniently cut and loosened. Also, the juice coming out with them was an alarmingly artificial-looking bright red.

I don't even know why I'm making giblet stock. I just know I'd feel guilty if I threw them away.

Because I'm not a complete idiot, I did some more looking around the internet to find out how to cook ducks before attempting it myself. Delia Smith informs us that duck is cooked the opposite of how you'd cook a chicken. Don't coat it with butter and oil, perforate it so that the fat under the skin melts and drains out. Don't put the duck in the pan, but put it high and dry on a rack above the pan. Don't baste it, but let the heat dry the skin to make it crisp. Fanny Cradock , in one of those rare moments where a television cook discusses the affairs of the smallest room in the house, talks about how your elderly relatives will say "I can't eat duck because you see it does repeat so!" before assuring us that the duck won't repeat on anybody when you get all the fat out of it. 

Seems straightforward enough. Like Delia, we don't have a rack, but one of these turned up in the back of a cabinet:

I think it's a steamer basket, though I've never used one. All I know is that its legs elevate it a good height above the pan so the duck won't be sitting in the fat that drips out of it. And when we open it, it is about the right size to bear up a bird.

After removing the handle (all we had to do was squeeze it and it popped right out), we have a perfect rack for our dripping duck! We can even put the handle back in afterward since we didn't have to break anything to remove it.

And now we get to the fun part: According to Her Highness Fanny Cradock, we are to take a fork in each hand and "Think of somebody you've never really liked but you're too well-bred to say what you think of them so you take it out on the goose and stab it all over." This allows the fat to just run right out of the skin as it bakes. Then we take thin honey and slather it on.

If you watch the video, Fanny Cradock shoves her unwashed hand right into a jar of honey and scoops it out. We at A Book of Cookrye hate cross-contamination, so we used a squeeze bottle instead (and washed hands before touching it). Maybe they didn't put absolutely everything in squeeze bottles in 1970s Britain, but Fanny could have at least spooned honey over the duck rather than getting her raw-bird-germs hand right into it. Apparently the fat "erupts" (that's Fanny Cradock's word choice) from the fork holes and interacts with the honey, making a marvelous crispy skin that "is part of the eating pleasure" of a duck.

I have to give Fanny Cradock credit for a very fast recipe. We had this thing in the oven only a few minutes after unwrapping it. To put it in British terms, you could set a pot of tea steeping before you cut open the bird wrapping, and have the bird in the oven and your hands washed before it's ready to pour. Furthermore, we only needed two forks to get this ready to bake. This recipe requires literally no other utensils.

Fanny didn't give any baking times on television, saying they were "in the booklet." We're not going to try to track down old TV recipe booklets and have them shipped over the sea. Fortunately, the poultry people had thoughtfully put instructions and a baking time chart right on the wrapper. This is the first time I've ever had to check the directions on the package for cooking raw meat. It's not that I always know how to cook it, but I've always used recipes that tell you how hot and how long.

In theory, the honey glaze makes the bird extra crispy, and the honey certainly caramelized very quickly. Our bird had only baked for 10 minutes and was already very brown on top. The kitchen smelled like hot honey almost immediately after we started baking. This quickly devolved into the smell of burnt. Furthermore, all this talk about fat dripping out of the duck is no exaggeration. The oven was already emitting very loud sizzles and spatter noises before I had even finished wiping the countertop.

Keep in mind that the duck is still refrigerator-cold in the middle.

Now, we are told that we "must empty the tin of its fat a bit at half time because it gets over-full and can be dangerous." That's Fanny Cradock's word choice: dangerous. I don't know if that means we could have a grease fire in the oven, or if she only means we risk sloshing hot fat on our hands if we let it all pool up. We set a timer for half of the cooking time so that we could be sure to come back and empty it. But before it was anywhere near time to empty the pan, the bird already looked like this.

Note how if you look beyond that browned skin, you can still see raw pink meat underneath.

We put a foil tent on top and hoped for the best, but we were also considering which nearby drive-thru would be our backup for dinner tonight. With reluctance and shame, we had to do what so many people do when cooking for the holidays:

It's never a good sign when you have to take the smoke detector down while cooking and bear with fortitude . We also had to thank all the fates watching over us that this kitchen has not just a window but an entire door that we can open:

The fan is the hero of this recipe.

While we had the kitchen door open to release the smoke, a friend decided to wander in. We didn't notice his presence until an hour after we'd all eaten and the kitchen was cleaned for the night.

You never know when you'll be glad the house has welding gloves.


But that's getting ahead of ourselves. 

Apparently duck is very greasy, which is why so many people don't like it. But, for all I was worried that we had a bird-shaped cinder awaiting the carving knife, I wasn't worried about grease. This is how much we spooned off when the timer helpfully informed us that the halfway time had arrived:

I think we stabbed enough draining holes in it.

Apparently duck fat is very fervently beloved among many fancy chefs. A lot of upperclass restaurants will advertise that they make their gravy and saute their vegetables with duck fat, like that automatically makes everything better. I don't know if it's actually better, or if people all do it because French cooks do, and French is always finer. 

Back in the pan, our bird looked like we had fatally ruined it in our attempt to cook it. The skin was burnt, but it was still full of raw pink juices:

I don't find raw juices in a partially-cooked bird unnerving. It's just a sign that while everything is progressing as it should, the bird is not yet ready to eat. But usually, when you still have pink fluids coming out of the bird, the bird doesn't look so burnt that even a foil tent can't save it.

Eventually, the timer informed us that the bird was done and the thermometer confirmed that we had fully cooked it. I have to credit whoever wrote the instructions on the back of the wrapper. I baked it for precisely the time they told me to, and it was exactly 180° like they said it should be. It wasn't under temperature and therefore in need of some more oven time, nor was it even one degree overcooked. Also, the bird looked like this.

Someone coming into the kitchen just as I was lifting the bird out of the oven simply said "Keep the fan turned on."


This duck doesn't look baked, it looks arsoned. I tried to euphemistically say it looked barbecued. After all, a lot of grilling snobs (the sort of people who would rush in to tell me that grilling and barbecuing are totally not the same) obsess over "getting a good bark" on their meats when cooking. Which is a fancy way of saying they like a solid layer of cinders on the outside.  

But, in case the blackened birdskin led us to prematurely remove the duck, we gave it one final check for doneness. The instructions on the bag also say that "the legs move freely and the juices run clear when the duck is done." We gave one of the legs a test wiggle, and it moved so freely the bone just slid right out.

At this point, I think it's worth noting that in the show she did about cooking Christmas birds from whence we get today's technique, Fanny Cradock does not show us a baked goose or duck. You might think she simply didn't have time in her very brief timeslot to bring one out on camera, but she does get out a baked chicken to show everyone watching at home that the subcutaneous mushrooms have shrunk and the chicken looks normal instead of bulbous and deformed. 

At first I thought I had overdone the honey, but upon rewatching I saw that Fanny Cradock slathers it on like she's making extra-syrupy waffles. So it's not my fault the bird is blackened. But I very sincerely wish I had used foil in the pan.

I had to hand-scrub every flap coming off the edge of that rack.

But with that said, once you got past the greasy skin, duck is absolutely delicious. It's wonderfully flavorful instead of bland. Even the honey that remained on the duck added a marvelous taste, especially after it caramelized to such a dark brown. It tasted a lot like we had put sauce on it and grilled. While we were carving the duck up, everyone kept picking off pieces of skin because they were just that good. 

The first detraction worth noting is that you will be picking out a lot of fat from the meat compared to a chicken or a turkey. Second, because so much fat will drip out of the duck, you will have a lot less bird than you think after it's baked. 

But baking a duck is a lot easier than you'd think. You can basically ignore a duck the entire time it cooks, and it somehow ends up tasting like you were constantly basting and fussing over it. The leftovers make wonderful sandwiches. So use foil in your pan, and get yourself a duck if you ever see them on sale!

Friday, December 25, 2020

Season's greetings from A Book of Cookrye!

 "Season's greetings" is the perfect phrase for this year since nowhere in the sentence are we directed to try to be merry. Instead, we are simply greeted. Last year, Christmas was inescapable like it always is. But this year, I kept forgetting all about it and wondering why pop singers were howling their way through "Oh Holy Night" on the grocery store PA system.

In hopes of better times ahead, let's look at the merry winter travels we got to go on last year! It's like going en voyage together. Our first stop is a visit to scenic Ohio! When you reach Ohio (or at least, if you were visiting in 2019), you will note that the snow gives even the cheap fake pine garlands a festive dignity they don't inherently deserve.

We were invited to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame while we were in Cleveland. Apparently everyone in Cleveland gets one free admission per year (or something like that). And had I had to pay full price, I would have traipsed merrily back out the door. But before you've had a chance to see the Hall of Fame, the Hall of Fame has already seen you. The courtyard out front has a lot of these:

They of course have many famous instruments and famous costumes, but more interestingly (to me) are the bedazzled East German cars suspended from the ceiling.

They of course have hall after hall of outrageous stage costumes. In keeping with the mood, they have chosen to use mannequins with a Joel Schumacher-level attention to nipples.

Headless but not titless.

Some of the signage at the Hall of Fame can be a bit confusing:

Like every competently-designed museum, the pathway of exhibits dumps you out at the gift shop. In theory, you will be so dazed from the many halls of wonders that you will forget that you paid $26 per person just to get in the door. If you're old enough to have at least gotten an invitation to your five-year high school reunion, you can have the horrifying realization that the clothes of your edgiest friends are now nostalgic items, sold for easily five times the price that you paid for them when you were barely old enough to drive.

Elsewhere in scenic Ohio, it seems beef is fantastically omnipresent there. Sandwiches there reach fantastic heights, as measured by my sunglasses:

That was just half of it. A sandwich in Ohio may be bigger than the upper half of your face, again shown using my sunglasses for scale. None of the friends I was visiting found anything unusual about these massive towers of dead cow that the waiter brought forth.

This apparently serves one.


Beef is used in creative ways I've never seen elsewhere. Perhaps I should drive through the Midwest more often to see what people in the rest of the region do with all the cows they raise. I have never seen something as audacious as fried Reuben sandwich balls before. It's exactly what it sounds like: the makings of a Reuben are squeezed into spherical form, encased in rye batter, and fried. I wasn't so much surprised by the existence of this dish as how blasé everyone was at table about these. Rather than all of us gawking at this like some daring deep-fried state fair novelty, everyone found these as shocking as finding fried potatoes next to a hamburger.

 You might think that perhaps we just happened to visit one of the very few restaurants that stacks meat like that. However, when ordering delivery a few nights later, the restaurant claimed that this was half of a sandwich. None of the menu descriptions said anything like "serves two" or something cute like "Hope you're really hungry" or "If you can eat it in 5 minutes it's free."

It is the same diameter as a medium pizza. Shown below is just one quarter of it. You have no doubt seen whole sandwiches of that size.

I think the best proof I've gone to cooking school is that I can make plastic wrap do this.

But this is my favorite way I found that Ohioans use up all that extra beef that apparently they just can't get rid of: cheesesteak wraps! 

It seems Ohio has no end of ways they will encase beef in bread dough. But perhaps one is a bit tired of restaurants. Contrary to the stereotype that everyone in the Midwest lives on canned cream of mushroom soup, Cleveland has a large Italian population. If you visiting any of them, you will soon find that you are expected to remove more than just your coat when visiting an Italian house:

Coming from a region where people think getting everyone's bare feet all over the carpet is just gross, I was not prepared to leave my shoes behind. I kept dreading that someone's dog or teething child would ruin them while I wasn't looking.

Like many Americans, I absolutely love the food at Italian restaurants and do not care that it is not at all Italian. But in an Italian home, even the non-Italian foods are different. For one thing, the store-bought ice cream looks like flowers.


Venturing back outside to help everyone with shopping, we found that one sporting goods store had not updated their display technology in quite some time. Seeing these suspended over the merchandise and blaring advertisements for canoes was downright nostalgic.


But let us now leave Ohio. If we head a little bit south, we find ourselves in Tennessee. As far as your car is concerned, you can make the drive without having to stop for gas. But culturally, you may as well stop to get your passport stamped at the border.

I'm sure the purchasers of confederate flags have been watching the trade wars with interest. Just look where they get their proud flags from.

People in the South seem to have a conflicting relationship with the United States. Some of them can't even decide if they are US citizens or not. Many of them will fly confederate and American flags side-by-side in their yards. The same people will declare that they are citizens of the Confederate States of America (a country that of course does not exist) and then buy things like this:

As you drive through the south, you may find it almost unnervingly easy to get alcohol. In some states, you cannot obtain even watered-down wine at the grocery store. In other states, you can get whiskey at gas stations.

You may remember that a few years ago, the mountains of Tennessee around the towns of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg suffered a devastating wildfire. While it looks like both the forest and the people have recovered, some people have chosen to display signs of fire damage like trophies of survival.

You don't have to go far from a town before getting the two biggest signs that you are in the country. First, your phone reception does this:

I know people drove through remote areas long before we had cell phones. They also got stranded and died.


Second, you find people locking up the trash from the wildlife like you're camping instead of a house.


Tourist center brochures, signs at hotels, and signs on the road alternately beg and command you to not to feed the bears. It is impossible to drive through the mountains of Tennessee without seeing the slogan "A fed bear is a dead bear," usually in all capitals. If you're a bit wary of being so far from civilization, you can look out the window and be amazed at how beautiful and green it is outside. The air smells like a forest (because you're in one) and feels so nice on your face.

The camera is not crooked; the mountains really are tilted like that.

There were many attractions we could have seen in the town of Pigeon Forge. Dinner theater is a popular attraction there. The actual food of the dinner theater seems to be a secondary concern to the theatrics. Whether you're going to see medieval jousting, pirates, a recreation of the Hatfield-McCoy feud, a Motown tribute, or anything else, the menus are all a variation of mashed potatoes, corn with extra butter, biscuits, and meat with gravy on top. But one beat-up building grabbed our interest more than the thrilling exhibitions that tantalize tourists:

We barely passed through the door before seeing perhaps the most aggressively American merchandise:

Elsewhere in the store, all the late-night informercial favorites could be had. There were sketchy cosmetics that probably would give you dreadful skin reactions:

Tweety merchandise that seemed to reach us straight from the mid-90s:

Clothes for men who are desperately trying to prove how tough and manly they are:

Knife sets (when you've been awake long enough, those late-night knife demonstrations are mesmerizing enough to make you not want but need an onion spiralizer):

Knockoffs of popular trends, barely renamed enough to avoid copyright charges:


And lots of pocket-size gadgets that probably will quickly fall apart, but are nevertheless an amusing way to spend a relatively harmless amount of money.

But now, let us leave the eastern half of the United States and journey to the very center of it. Our vehicle is now in scenic Nebraska, home of a lot of cornfields and Arbor Day. You know you won't go hungry in Nebraska as soon as you go to the grocery store. Most places sell candy bars and other single-serving delights near the cash register. In Nebraska you can toss a full-size package of Oreos in your cart while you're waiting for the cashier to ring up the person in front of you.


Nebraska elevates the "convenience" in "convenience foods" to an art. Have you ever wanted to munch on chocolate chip cookies while driving, but found the cookies too difficult to hold while steering?

Have you ever wished your hot breakfast came in pizza form so you could skip using a fork?


Moving away from gas station comestibles, we find Nebraskan restaurants will serve all manner of edible delights... often after frying them. Where I am from, deep-fried Oreos are a novelty you find at festivals. People take selfies while eating them just to prove that deep-fried Oreos exist. In Nebraska, you just order them with your cheeseburger.

Our friends in Nebraska insisted on taking us to see historic architecture. Most people will look at fantastic wall carvings or the amazing glasswork, and we did find a lot of it beautiful. But we were especially fascinated to find one building still had its original gas-and-electric lights. These come from a very specific time in history, when electric lights were finally available, but electricity was still so unreliable (and often shut down at night) so people still had gas lights in their house. For about 15 years, the modern choice was to put both the reliable but old-fashioned gas light and the modern but undependable electric bulb in the same fixture. You can recognize the former gas light by the air holes under the flame, and also by the fact that the top is open-- because a flame would be in there.

Our roadtrip now takes out of Nebraska and directly south. What will we find as we cross the state line and enter Kansas?


We will find a lot of fog. Almost as soon as we entered Kansas, we drove into what seemed like a wall of fog and couldn't see anything else. On the bright side, if you must pull over in Kansas, you will find the bathrooms are dingy but very well-cleaned. They even have convenient waiting benches. It may seem silly to have benches in the bathroom, but it will make sense if you've ever roadtripped with friends when it was too cold to wait outside while everyone answered the call of nature.

Departing Kansas, we enter the state of Oklahoma. If you didn't know gambling is legal in Oklahoma, you find out as soon as you make a pit stop.

Even the tiny picnic areas have charming details. After being in the car for so long, you may be fascinated by the miniature trash cans wearing adorable brown derby hats, suspended from poles and swinging in the gentle breeze.

But at last, we reached the end of our great cross-state trip. We find ourselves in Texas. When you visit Texas, you find that Texans are peculiarly proud of being Texan. Many people in the state are Texans first and Americans second. A lot of people, regardless of how deep into the city they may live, tend to select their vehicles as if they're only temporarily in town and will move out to the country very soon. Large trucks populate the parking lots of grocery stores and strip malls, as if the owners are going off-roading and buying building supplies on the way home. Even the signage in shopping malls reminds you that you are in Texas.


Texas is the only state in all of America where I have seen actual legal notices about guns in extra-large letters at the entryways to otherwise boring office buildings.

Also in Texas, we find that deep-frying is considered a matter of state pride. Every year, at least two thirds of state fair news is a loving tribute to everything that enterprising food vendors will immerse in boiling fat. It is a strange, greasy combination of food and performance art. Even in gas stations, you will find that they're not just frying potatoes and sausages.

In case your deep fried pizza makes you thirsty, you can obliterate it with a quart of soda. For all my metric friends, that's about half a deciliter short of a liter. You know I had to investigate this one. Sure enough, deep-fried brown triangles sat already-wrapped and drying out under the heat lamps next to the (also fried) burritos.

I thought this was a peculiar offering of one particular convenience store somewhere on a particularly uninhabited section of the interstate, but they turned up again. 

Note that the wrapper specifies "pepperoni," implying that connoisseurs of fried pizza can select the flavor that brings them the most happiness.


Everyone in the car agreed that if one person tried to eat it, they would surely know internal regret. Yet we were all mystified and beguiled by the mysterious deep-fried pizza. After much deliberation, we agreed that none of us would get an instantaneous heart attack if we purchased one and passed it around. The deep-fried pizza was anticlimactic. I had imagined they literally took a slice of pizza, dipped it in batter, and fried it. It was really more of a fried triangular Hot Pocket.

I think I'm going to have to stop being astonished at fried foods in America. To tell the truth, I was never shocked at finding that every edible substance has been battered and immersed in hot oil somewhere in this great country. I'm more surprised at how normal this is. You don't see people at restaurants waving menus at their friends, pointing, and saying "Can you believe that they have fried beef jerky?"

To end on a festive note, let's look at the cutest bathroom I ever washed my hands in during the entire holiday season last year.


And so, from all of us at A Book of Cookrye to you...