If you’re hungry at Jazz Fest

Vaucresson Carolyn Jack has a wonderful feature on Vance Vaucresson, whose business, Vaucresson’s Sausage Company, is the last remaining food vendor from the original 1970 Jazz Fest. Katrina wiped out his business, but he got it going again with inspiration from Jazz Fest and some help from a friendly competitor who is now his partner. When I get hungry out there these next two weekends, I’ll be looking for Vaucresson’s booth.

I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.

Last summer before Katrina, Ernie Svenson showed me a copy of his favorite periodical, Modern Drunkard Magazine. I was reminded of the magazine when Ernie posted something about it the other day, including a link to the MDM web site. The site includes a page titled Wino Wisdom, which is close enough to "Minor Wisdom" that I thought I should study it. I found an item there, quoted below, that reminded me of something I wrote last month — I must say the drunk's quotation is pithier than my writing:

The optimist sees the glass half full. The pessimist sees the glass half empty. The drunk says, "Are you gonna drink that?"

Robert G. eschewing the philosophical for the practical.

"There are no shortcuts to quality." Ernest and Mary Hansen

The quotation is from an article titled Let It Sno, by Ian McNulty, on page 49 of this week's Gambit Weekly: a terrific article about a fine New Orleans institution: Hansen's Sno-Bliz Shop. They sell sno-balls, using the Sno-Bliz machine invented by Ernest Hansen. Sadly, Ernest and Mary passed away in the months after Katrina. But their granddaughter, Ashley Hansen, has inherited and re-opened Hansen's.

The concluding paragraph contains a lesson that goes beyond snow balls:

Still, there was art in the way the Hansens made sno-balls, the same approach they passed down to their granddaughter. The Sno-Bliz machine shaves ice to an extraordinary fineness, which gives the sno-balls their incomparable, snow-like texture. But this fine ice makes it harder for the syrups to penetrate all the way through. That's why the sno-balls at Hansen's are made in alternating stages of ice and syrup, a time-consuming process that helps explain why the lines usually moved slowly. An easy shortcut is to make the ice shavings coarser but, as the signs on the wall constantly remind, there are no shortcuts to quality at Hansen's.

Ray's recipe for a Flavia jolt

Our office has one of these Flavia coffee- and cappuccino-making machines. For 25¢, it'll make you a passable cup of cappuccino, a fairly good cup of coffee, or a shot of espresso. The other day, I accidentally discovered a way to trick the machine into making a super-caffeinated drink — double the caffeine at the same 25¢ price. If your office has one of these machines, and you'd like to know the secret, read on.

Continue reading "Ray's recipe for a Flavia jolt" »

Ketchup and applied physics

How do you get ketchup out of a newly opened bottle? According to anthropologists, Neanderthal man would turn the bottle upside down and, grunting, pound the bottom of the bottle with his fist. Cro-Magnon man, slightly more advanced than the Neanderthal but still something of a brute, would shove a table knife into the bottle to pull the ketchup out — effective, but uncouth. It would be nice to say that the human race has advanced since then. But the next time you visit your friendly neighborhood diner, look around, and decide for yourself whether that's true.

The ketchup-pouring problem, like many of life's practical problems, can be solved by applying high-school physics, specifically Newton's First Law of Motion. My technique: hold the base of the ketchup bottle in your left hand, upside down, at a 45-degree angle. Bring the bottle downward at that same 45-degree angle, letting the angled part of the bottle (just below the bottle neck) hit your right hand. When the moving bottle hits your right hand, it comes to an abrupt stop. But the ketchup inside the bottle keeps moving forward, for the same reason that the unbuckled occupants of a car keep moving forward when the car hits a brick wall. See Newton's First Law. Result: the ketchup comes out in direct proportion to how hard the bottle smacks into your right hand: a little tap for a little bit of ketchup; a hard smack for a large, messy glob.

For another ketchup-pouring technique grounded in physics, visit Bob's Diner, and click on Bob's technical explanation for pouring ketchup. Bob's technique, like mine, brings the moving bottle to an abrupt stop while the ketchup inside tries to keep moving. Newton's First Law.