Friday, January 13, 2017

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Mincemeat Pie

     I'd heard "mincemeat" used as an expression, as in, "I'll make mincemeat out of you!" as a threat.  I've also read about it in books, or heard it mentioned in movies, especially older ones, set in the U.K. or Europe.  But I'd never had a opportunity to try it until recently.  The Shady Maple Farm Market in East Earl, Pennsylvania, came through.  Also, my friend Gene nicely offered me the final piece in the 6 inch (about 15 cm.) diameter pie he'd bought.
     I was also unsure about what mincemeat pie actually consisted of.  Sure, "meat" is in the name, but I was under the impression that this was really a type of fruit pie, at least in modern times.  It turns out that there are several varieties.  The old, traditional mincemeat pie did in fact contain meat, in the form of beef or venison, which was then mixed with dried fruit, distilled spirits, and spices, all of which was then stuffed into a pie crust.  Or kind of like a chicken pot pie, meat pie, or a shepherd's pie.  Something eaten as the main course at dinner.  However, these ingredients have changed over time.  By the mid 20th century, with spices like nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon more readily available, mincemeat pie changed into more of a sweet, dessert-type of pie.  Meat was sometimes eliminated entirely, or present only as suet (fat).  And even more recently, some vegetarians make a version without even this suet.  Presumably, somewhere there's even a vegan type which doesn't even use eggs or butter.  Whatever its form, mincemeat pie continues to be fairly common in much of the world.  It's found in Northern Europe, Ireland, the U.K., the U.S., South Africa, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
     The mincemeat pie I tried was a bit old school.  The filling did indeed contain beef, mixed in with apples, apple cider, red wine, rum, raisins, salt, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice.  The crust was regular wheat, eggs, milk, butter, various vegetable oils, and artificial flavors, etc.  It was a little pricey, too, as the small pie cost $5.49.  My slice looked like a regular yellowish crust containing a brown filling.  It reminded me of pecan pie filling in appearance, minus the latter's visible nut pieces.  I peered at it carefully, but couldn't identify any separate pieces of beef, or apple chunks.  Apparently everything had been ground up very fine (or "minced," as the name also suggests).  I quite enjoyed it.  It was very dense, and sweet.  Definitely like a dessert, and not like a savory pot pie.  I couldn't detect much of a meat taste, but it was very rich, and different from a usual apple pie somehow.  Maybe it was the booze!  I was slightly disappointed that I couldn't pick out the beef flavor, but on the other hand, it was undeniably a tasty treat.  I'll try to compare it to the fruit and just suet version, or even the all vegetarian ingredients one, when and if I get the chance.  But I certainly strongly recommend the type of mincemeat pie I sampled, to anyone who likes fruit pies (which I'm guessing is a whole lot of people).
   



















Friday, January 6, 2017

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Irish Sweet Cheddar Cheese

     I found this one in the international cheese section of my local Shop-Rite grocery.  It kind of caught my eye for two reasons:  One, I can't recall ever eating an Irish cheese, and two, although I've had my share of of cheddar (some might say way more than my share), I don't think I've ever had any that was "sweet."  Usually if there is any description of the cheddar it's how sharp it is.  "Sharp" refers to how strong, and how tangy the cheese is, and it's tied to how long the cheese was aged.  It seems like the official stats are slightly nebulous, but in general a "mild" cheddar is aged up to about 3-6 months, a "sharp" for 6-12 months, an "extra sharp" for 12-24 months, a "premium" for 2-5 years, and a "super sharp" for 6 years or more.  I couldn't find out how long the sweet cheddar I got was aged, but I can only assume less than 6 months, making it a "mild."
    The company that made the cheese I picked up was Kerrygold, based in Ireland.  Kerrygold is in turn owned by Ornua (nee The Irish Dairy Board).  Their website and the cheese wrapper, seems quite proud that their dairy products come from small family farms (with an average cow herd size of 60), from grass-fed cows, which receive no artificial growth hormones.  The package also says it's suitable for vegetarians, so evidently they use an atypical type of rennet to make their cheeses.  So, in short, even your hippie friends will probably approve of Kerrygold products (vegans excepted, I guess).
     Kerrygold makes various kinds of butter, and other kinds of cheese.  The other cheese types are Dubliner cheese, aged cheddar, reserve cheddar, Blarney Castle cheese (said to be a Dutch gouda style), Swiss cheese, Irish stout cheese (with the actual beer in it), aged cheddar with (literal) whiskey in it, and Cashel blue farmhouse cheese.  Recently they've also branched out a bit, and introduced an Irish cream liqueur (whiskey, cream, and chocolate) to battle Bailey's.
     The type I tried is called Skellig, named after a group of islands off Ireland's coast.  These islands had an early monastery, and are currently home to large quantities of gannets and puffins.  (It's also a UNESCO World Heritage site.)  I bought a 7 ounce (198 gram) package, which cost about $5, as I remember.  The website extolled the cheese's alleged "creamy texture, distinct nuttiness, and sweet apple notes," and "butterscotch-like sweetness."  Reportedly it's also good for cooking, or made into a sauce.  I, of course, chose to eat the cheese uncooked, both plain and on a cracker.  Well, my sort-of- quest to find a cheese I don't like continues.  I really enjoyed the Skellig.  It was a bit milder than most cheddars I've had, but I didn't taste nuts, or apples, or butterscotch or anything.  Maybe my pallet is unrefined.  But, most importantly, it was very good.
     So, all in all, I heartily recommend this one.  I'll be looking to try the other Kerrygold cheeses, too.  As the Irish Gaelic speakers say as a toast, "Slainte!"  Thanks to the Kerrygold website and "Million Dollar Baby," I know now two Gaelic words/phrases.





















Friday, December 30, 2016

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Mandarinquats, and a Brief Discussion About "The Exorcist 3"

    This is another hybrid fruit, as one can easily tell from the name.  It's a cross between a mandarin (which is not an orange, but a citrus fruit more like a tangerine) and a kumquat (see December 24, 2012 post for more info on this).  Also, for more detailed information about hybrids, including comical animal hybrid names, see my March 30, 2013 post.  Mandarins, scientists have discovered, are one of the "Original Four" citrus fruits, along with the pumello (see February 20, 2014 post), citron, and papeda.  All other citrus fruits are hybridized children of these.
     Essentially, the mandarinquat looks like a giant kumquat.  Kumquats are usually about the size of a large olive, while their hybrid is about 2 inches (about 5 cm.) in diameter.  This hybrid fruit's shape is roundish or oval-ish, sometimes with a "nose" at one end.  Their outer rind is orange when ripe, along with many tiny brown spots.  The inner pulp is orange as well.  Like kumquats, this fruit is unusual in that the outer rind is edible, and even palatable.  Since it is a hybrid, the fruit's history is well known.  It was developed in Indio, California, near the UCLA campus, in 1970.  So mandarinquats are nearly the same age as me.
     Like many of the foods I've discussed, and especially the fruits, there are many health benefit claims about mandarinquats.  They are touted as being effective reducers of appetite and cholesterol, and also good at calming anxiety, aiding sleep, boosting metabolism, and fighting bronchitis.  But, as I'm always forced to say, readers should know that these claims are as yet unsubstantiated by medical science.  They are certainly healthy regardless, as they have high amounts of Vitamin C and fiber, and have very little fat, etc.
     Mandarinquats are commonly made into marmalades, syrups, and preserves.  But, given my disdain for cooking and food preparation, I of course chose to eat them plain.  I found them to be slightly more tart than kumquats.  As with kumquats, the outer rind is a bit sweet and mild, and cuts the sour taste of the pulp nicely.  Overall, they were decent.  My father tried some, too, and liked them more than me.  They were somewhat pricey, running me $5.99 for 5 individual fruits.  My batch was made by Frieda's, out of Los Alamitos, California.  Evidently their availability is limited, mostly from late December through March, or basically winter in the Northern Hemisphere.  So if you're interested in trying some, the clock is ticking.
     Finally, I think the developers of this fruit were savvy in going with "mandarinquats" rather than "kumdarins."
     Switching topics, I received the new (October 2016) edition of the movie "The Exorcist 3" (1990) on Blue Ray for Christmas.  Among many special features, it's the original theatrical release version and a new Director's Cut version.  (SPOILERS AHEAD)  The new version has scenes spliced into it from old, noticeably inferior sources, Nevertheless, I thought it was an improvement.  Like many viewers, I found the final exorcism scenes at the end of the film to be hokey and overly melodramatic.  Plus, they seemed tacked on.  (Which they were--director William Peter Blatty didn't want them, but was forced by the studio to do reshoots and add them.  The studio thought a movie with this title needed an exorcism.)  Although the director's cut does have a flaw.  I liked the theatrical cut's use of Jason Miller (Father Karras in the original, and this one) combined with Brad Dourif as the mysterious psych ward patient, depending on which of the two personalities was dominant at the moment,  It's only Dourif in the Director's cut, alas.  Also, both version have an amusing barrage of celebrity cameos in them, mostly of non-actors.  Samuel L. Jackson, Larry King, former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, Fabio, and former Georgetown University basketball greats John Thompson and Patrick Ewing (Ewing plays the Angel of Death!)


  























Friday, December 23, 2016

Underrated Horror Gems--"Society"

     "Society" was made in 1989, but had an atypical release schedule.  It opened in Europe in 1989, but not in the U.S. until 1992.  It did okay, financially and critically, in the U.K., Italy, and Spain, but here in the U.S. it was a box office dud, and received mostly negative reviews.  However, in recent years it's enjoyed a bit of a revival, as a cult film.  But I've enjoyed it since I first saw it the early/mid 1990's, and today I'd like to discuss it.  I'll start with a spoiler-free synopsis of it, followed by a marked, spoiler-ific, recap and discussion about some of its main themes.
    Bill Whitney appears to be living the perfect life.  He comes from a stable, wealthy family, and wants for nothing.  He's quite popular at his school, the Beverly Hills Academy, being both a star athlete and a leading class president candidate.  But, under the surface, something's amiss.  He's being treated by a psychiatrist, Dr. Cleveland, due to irrational fears about his family and many of the people in his social circle.  He suffers from hallucinations, which involve incestuous relationships, bizarre monsters, and murderous conspiracies.  Things go from bad to worse, as his relationship with his family, and peers, deteriorates.  Is Bill crazy? Or is something disturbingly rotten in the society in which he lives?
     (SPOILERS AHEAD UNTIL NOTED)  "Society" opens with Bill relaying a nightmare with his psychiatrist.  Dr. Cleveland assures him that his fears and feelings of alienation are relatively normal, and that everything's okay.  Then, shortly after rescuing his sister, Jenny, from an ex-boyfriend, David Blanchard, who's become stalker-y, Bill accidentally sees his sister in the shower, and she briefly appears to be a twisted monstrosity.  At the beach, Blanchard tells Bill that he's bugged the Whitneys, and plays a tape that seems to reveal an incestuous relationship between Jenny and their parents, and then many others in an orgy.  However, when Bill listens to the same tape at Dr. Cleveland's office (he gave his doctor the tape the night before) it sounds as if his family was acting normally, at a social event.  Blanchard then is in a fatal vehicular accident before he can give Bill another copy of the tape.  When Bill goes to popular student Ted Ferguson's party, Ted claims the orgy was real, and that he caused Blanchard's fatal accident.  A scuffle ensues, and Bill is led away by Ted's mysterious but beautiful girlfriend Clarisa.  She seduces him, but later he thinks he sees her lying in an anatomically impossible position.  At Blanchard's funeral, Bill and his friend Milo notice that the corpse looks artificial, and doesn't resemble Blanchard.  Bill's political opponent, Martin Petrie, asks to meet Bill later that night at a isolated canyon.  When Bill arrives, he sees Martin dead in his car of a slit throat, while an unknown person runs away.  But when Bill brings the cops to the scene, the car is different, and no body is found.  After Bill announces that Petrie is dead at a school assembly, Petrie shows up, apparently unharmed.
     Then things get more dramatic.  Bill is forcibly drugged by Dr. Cleveland, and taken to the hospital.  Milo has followed behind the ambulance, but is told by the hospital staff that Bill is dead.  Bill wakes up and meets Milo, and they see that someone has brought his Jeep to the hospital.  Milo fears a setup, and warns Bill not to go home.  Bill, though, does so anyway, and as he enters his house he's restrained.  Dr. Cleveland, his parents, and the rest of the town's rich and elite reveal that Bill's fears were entirely rational and justified.  The group, called Society, is made up of weird creatures that can distort their bodies in grotesque shapes.  The members literally feed on the poor, regular humans, to enrich their gene pool and for sustenance.  This process, called "shunting" is demonstrated on the body of the still alive Blanchard.  They suck on and meld into his body, while their bodies twist and mutate into surreal shapes.  Clarisa is revealed to be part of Society, but she shows obvious signs of regret, and seems to care for Bill.  Finally, Bill taunts Ted into a one on one duel.  Ted beats Bill badly, and starts to shunt him, but at the last moment Bill literally reaches inside him and turns him inside out.  Milo, who's infiltrated the party, and Clarisa lead Bill out,while the group looks on.
     Clearly the main them of "Society" is the conflict between rich and poor.  It's not exactly subtle, as the rich and powerful monster Society Members kill and eat the poor directly.  Director Brian Yuzna was obviously influenced by the political situation of the late 1980's, but as he said in a later interview, this same idea can also apply to many other eras.  But even if it's obvious, and a bit "on the nose," it doesn't mean it's not compelling.  Bill, and the few other non-Society members are in a bad spot.  The Society folks clearly run the entire show.  They run (or at least have giant influence on) the schools, the hospital, the police, and the legal system.  How much so is apparent by their reaction when Bill and his friends escape at the end.  The members of the group could have easily swarmed and killed them, but they basically let them go.  And why not?  The escapees can't really hurt the group.  I suppose Clarisa could have demonstrated her bodily weirdness capabilities, but the Society folks can clearly pretend to be normal.  Who would believe such a weird story?  There's even a hint of anti-Semitism shown.  At Blanchard's "funeral," we see it takes place in a synagogue.  Evidently the Society members are "good" Christians.
     Another major theme is traditional teen angst.  Probably everyone has felt different at some point in their lives, whether it's from schoolmates, powerful adults, or even their own families.  Teens are going through monumental physical changes, accompanied by sexual feelings that they don't fully understand.  They're unsure of their status, and apprehensive about becoming an adult, maturing into someone with a career, spouse, children, etc.  This movie exploits these common fears, and takes them to ridiculous extremes. Bill feels alienated because he really is--he's the adopted human of a bunch of human-like monsters, who are raising him only for the purpose of eventually devouring him.  (They were humans at one point, though.  They deny being aliens, at a point when they have no reason to lie.  Yuzna stated in a later conversation that he envisioned them as being humans that were invaded by parasites centuries ago.)  Effective horror movies mine the fears that many/most people experience--fear of the dark, the unknown, death, etc., and use them in an exaggerated way to scare us anew.
     I was watching an interview with Yuzna that appears on a new special edition DVD that I just received, and he admitted straight out that the incest plot line was an intentional exploitation of another common fear/taboo.  And it is disturbing.  Bill's adoptive parents look younger, and more attractive that most middle aged parents.  His adopted sister is also very attractive.  So the scenes where they're acting a little too friendly and familiar with each other makes the viewer uncomfortable and queasy.  When they distort themselves into strange, impossible shapes and combine with each other this just reinforces the horror of the taboo.  Also, staying on disturbing sexual imagery, the shunting process is both a devouring, and a kind of rape.  All the bodies involved are naked, glistening, and both penetrating and eating their victim in a nasty violation.
     As with many horror movies, for much of it we're not sure if what's shown is real, or if the main character is insane.  "Society" toys with us for quite a while.  Bill sees and hears things that seem weird and awful, but then everything appears to return to normal and safe, very quickly.  Some films, of course, never fully tip their hand, and leave it up to the viewer to decide what the truth really is.  "Society" eventually comes down firmly on the interpretation that Bill is not crazy--there is a conspiracy at hand, hatched by powerful monsters.  But it's still well played while it lasts, I thought, and adds to the unsettling tone of the movie.  The co-author of the script, Woody Keith, might have had some issues, according to Yuzna.  The basic story was supposedly based on his life, growing up wealthy and disaffected in the Beverly Hills area.  Write what you know, I guess.  (Hopefully he wasn't really raised by sick cultists, or murdering monsters.)
     Finally, no discussion of "Society" would be complete without getting into its extreme weirdness.  Most obviously, the bodily forms that the group members take are wonderfully imaginative and bizarre.  Faces distorted into elongated snouts, bodies twisted like pretzels, people melded into each other, a man grows his head out of his butt, and another becomes a figure with a giant hand for a head.  During the shunting scenes, everyone's naked, covered in goo, and simultaneously having sex and consuming each other.  But there are other odd touches, too.  Clarisa acts strangely much of the time, including her rather unusual and disgusting offer to add a bodily fluid to Bill's beverage.  Her mother, who's apparently a Society member, doesn't ever seem to be normal.  She's mute, dresses oddly, appears to be mentally handicapped, and shows a tendency to enjoy ripping out and consuming people's hair.  The special effects person for this movie, Screaming Mad George, really did a great job. The effects are wonderfully gross and unique--some remind me of Rob Bottin and Stan Winstons' creations for the 1982 remake of "The Thing."  Evidently Screaming Mad George and Brian Yuzna drew direct inspiration from a 1930's movie "Doctor X," and several of Salvador Dali's stranger paintings.
     (END SPOILERS--SAFE FOR ALL READERS)  Of those involved in the production of "Society" I think it's safe to say that director Brian Yuzna is the most known.  Yuzna produced "Re-Animator" (1985), "From Beyond" (1986), "Warlock" (1989), and "Dagon" (2001), among others.  Aside from "Society" he directed such films as "Bride of Re-Animator" (1990), "Return of the Living Dead Part 3"(1993), "The Dentist" (1996), "Beyond Re-Animator" (2003), and "Amphibius" (2010).  He also co-wrote the original story behind "Honey I Shrunk the Kids."  Star Billy Warlock (son of famous stuntman Dick Warlock) has had a busy acting career, but mostly in television soap operas and "Baywatch."  He was in "Halloween 2" (1981) and "The Thing Below" (2004) in addition.  Evan Richard, who portrayed Milo,appeared in such movies as "Altered States"(1980), "Twilight Zone: The Movie"(1983) "Down and Out in Beverly Hills" (1986) and "Mute Witness" (1995).  Devin DeVasquez (Clarisa) is probably best known for being a Playboy Playmate, and also appeared in "Can't Buy Me Love" (1987) and the fourth "Toxic Avenger" film (2000).  Ben Myerson, who played Ted Ferguson, also acted in Speed 2: Cruise Control" (1997), "Knocked Up" (2007), and "Funny People" (2009).  Charles Lucia (Bill's dad Jim Whitney), Ben Slack (Dr. Cleveland) and David Wells (Sergeant Burt) all had over 70 acting credits, mostly in television roles.  Finally, Brian Bremer (Martin Petrie) appeared in another movie I discussed on this blog, 1988's "Pumpkinhead" (See July 13, 2016 post) as Bunt.  Special effects guru Screaming Mad George worked on such films as "Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3: Dream Warriors" (1987) "Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4: The Dream Master" (1988), "Predator" (1987), "Freaked" (1993), and "Beyond Re-Animator" (2003).  So essentially, many of the actors and crew have had eventful careers, but I wouldn't classify any of them as being household names (unless you're in a household made up of obsessive horror fans, I guess).
     Therefore, in conclusion, I don't know why "Society" did relatively poorly, at least in some areas of the world.  The story is innovative, and the film blurs genres effectively.  There's a nice creepy tone to it, punctuated by spectacular, disturbing and disgusting special effects, especially at the end.  There's even some darkly humorous moments.  All in all, in my opinion, it's a fun, bizarre, and horrific movie.  Yuzna stated in the past few years that a sequel might be in the works.  Or, knowing Hollywood, perhaps a reboot.  Hopefully either of these resist the urge to try to top Screaming Mad George's efforts with a bunch of unconvincing CGI effects.




































   

































Friday, December 16, 2016

"The Prison Compendium" is Out!

          A new anthology is currently available.  Namely, "The Prison Compendium," which is another publication from EMP Publishing.  You can pick this up on EMP's website (www.emppublishing.com) or on Amazon (www.amazon.com).  Below you'll find a list of what stories are featured, as well as the front cover, and the back cover blurb.  I'd like to thank Editor/Publisher Jennifer Word, editor Kimberly King, cover artist Fatlind Colaku, and the rest of the EMP folks, as well as my fellow authors.  Enjoy!



TOC (story ordering not set)
  1.  "A Ray of Hope" by Paul Stansfield
  2.  "The Joint" (a poetry collection) by Randy D. Rubin
  3.  "Finding the Answer" by Travis Richardson
  4.  "It's a Kinda Magic" by Jeremy Mays
  5.  "Swing a Sparrow on a String" by Ken Goldman
  6.  "The Life and Multiple Deaths of Virgil Eugene" by Jennifer Word
  7.  "Jeremy Knox" by Jeffrey K. Blevins
  8.  "Responsibility" by A. R. Shannon
  9.  "The Will to Lose" by Laird Long
  10. "Parole Violator" by Laird Long
  11.  "Solitary Man" by Adrian Ludens
  12.  "End a Days" by Kristin Dearborn
​  13.  "Just a Spoonful of Horror" by Gary Ives
  14.  "Penalty for Misuse - $20" by J. J. Steinfeld
  15.  "The True Vocation of Sandy Brylirn" by J. J. Steinfeld
  16.  "A Rose is a Rose?" by Larry Lefkowitz
  17.  "Mistress of Light and Dark" by Catherine MacKenzie
  18.  "Unlife Sentence" by Eric J. Juneau
  19.  "The Flea Jar" by Layla Cummins
  20.  "The Side Job" by Joseph B. Cleary
  21.  "In the Jailhouse" by Bruce Harris
  22.  "Impala" by Timothy O'Leary
  23.  "Second Chance" by Tom Larsen
  24.  "Return to Death Row" by Fredrick Obermeyer
  25.  "Smaller" by James A. Miller
  26.  "A Farewell to Apotheosis" by Gregory L. Norris
  27.  "Brooms" by Jon Michael Kelley
  28.  "Seven Conversations in Locked Rooms" by Alex Shvartsman
  29.  "Prisoner Reincarnated" by Calvin Demmer
​  30.  "Innocence USA" by David Rachels
  31.  "Misconceptions" by Bryan Grafton
  32.  "Redemption" by Lee Duffy
  33.  "Monroe and Warner" by Morgen Knight






Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Title-less Hall of Fame NFL Quarterbacks

     First off, I'll have writing news very soon.  Check back in two days (Friday, Dec. 16th) for more info on a newly published anthology which will feature one of my stories.
     Back on February 10, 2016 I devoted a post to discussing which quarterbacks won NFL/AFL/AAFC titles, and then who won the most, all time.  So I got to thinking about otherwise great quarterbacks who never won a title.  So I looked up all the quarterbacks who are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and checked over their careers.
     Oh, and bear in mind the following info about pro football playoffs and title winners.  From 1920-32 the NFL champion was determined by the best won-loss record (and they didn't count ties as anything, which was eventually changed).  (In 1932 the top two teams did play a final game for the title, but this wasn't an official NFL Championship Game--it's complicated.)  From 1933 to 1965 the NFL (title) Championship Game was played between the two conference champions.  The All American Football Conference (AAFC) played from 1946-49.  Their two conference champs also met in a final title game to determine their top team.  Three of these AAFC teams were absorbed in the NFL starting in the 1950 season.  Then, the American Football League (the AFL) played from 1960-69.  From 1960 to 1965 their top two teams played in an AFL title game.  Then, from 1966-69, the top AFL team played the top NFL team to determine the ultimate champ, in a game later called the Super Bowl.  Then in 1970 the AFL was absorbed into the NFL, and became the American Football Conference (AFC) along with 3 former NFL teams.  The rest of the league is the National Football Conference, or NFC.  The NFC champ plays the AFC champ in the Super Bowl at the end of each season for the ultimate NFL title.  The number of playoff teams has steadily increased, too, up to 8 total in 1970, and up to the current 12 (6 per conference), so modern quarterbacks have more opportunities to make the playoffs than their older kin.
     Anyway, the following Hall of Fame quarterbacks won no titles.

      1) Dan Fouts, San Diego Chargers, 1973-87.  Highlights of his career include 43,040 passing yards, 254 touchdown passes, 6 Pro Bowls, and being the MVP in 1982.  Dan had a playoff (starting) record of 3-4.  He did make two AFC Championship Games, for the 1980 and 1981 seasons, but lost both.

     2) Benny Friedman, who played for various teams, including the Cleveland Bulldogs, Detroit Wolverines, New York Giants, and Brooklyn Dodgers from 1927-34 (yes, these were all official NFL teams in the early days).  Credited with being the NFL's first standout passer.  He led the NFL in touchdown passes in his first 4 years, and threw a then record 20 touchdown passes in 1929.  He won no titles. He was not on the team with the best record through 1932, and then not on a team that even played in the Championship Game his final two seasons.

    3) Jim Kelly, Buffalo Bills, 1986-96 (he also played for a few seasons in the USFL prior to his NFL career).  Finished with 5 Pro Bowl appearances, 35,467 passing yards, and 237 touchdown passes.  Had a 9-8 playoff record, including four straight, frustrating Super Bowl losses from 1990-93 (Super Bowls 25-28).

   4) Dan Marino, Miami Dolphins, 1983-99.  Played in 9 Pro Bowls, and set the then records of 61,361 passing yards and 420 touchdown passes.  Accumulated a 8-10 playoff record, including a loss in Super Bowl 19 against the 49ers.

  5) Warren Moon, Houston Oilers, Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks, and Kansas City Chiefs, 1984-2000.  He also played for several years in the Canadian Football League before his NFL career began.  Highlights include 49,325 passing yards, 291 touchdown passes, and 9 Pro Bowls.  In the playoffs, though, he went 3-7, and never reached either a Super Bowl or conference championship game.

  6) Clarence "Ace" Parker, Brooklyn Dodgers and Boston Yanks (yes, that was a real team--weird!) with the NFL, and with the New York Yankees in the AAFC, 1937-41, 1945-46.  Was named all NFL twice, and was the league MVP in 1940.  Never made an NFL Championship Game appearance, and appeared in relief in a loss in the 1946 AAFC title game.

  7) Fran Tarkenton, Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants, 1961-78.  When he retired he held the NFL records for most passing yards (47,003) and touchdown passes (342), since broken.  Also renowned as one of the earliest effective rushers, or "scrambling" quarterbacks.  His career playoff record was 6-5, including appearances in Super Bowls 8,9, and 11, all losses, obviously.

 8) Y.A. Tittle, Baltimore Colts (AAFC and NFL), San Francisco 49ers, and New York Giants, 1948-64.  Threw for 33,070 passing yards and 242 touchdown passes.  Named to 7 Pro Bowls, and was League MVP twice.  However, in the playoffs he went 0-5 (0-4 as a starter), losing one AAFC Championship Game and 3 straight NFL Championship Games (1961-63).

     The following quarterbacks sort of qualify for this list, for reasons explained below.

  9) George Blanda, Chicago Bears, Baltimore Colts, Houston Oilers, and Oakland Raiders, 1949-58, 1960-75.  Played in a record 26 seasons, until he was 48!  Also played as a kicker, and held the total points record (2002) for decades.  Anyway, he won two AFL titles with the Oilers, in 1960 and 1961.  (Amazingly he threw 5 interceptions in winning the 1961 game!)  Also played for the Raiders in their loss to the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl 2, as a kicker, not as a quarterback.

  10) Paddy Driscoll, Hammond Pros, Decatur Staleys, Chicago Cardinals, and Chicago Bears, 1919-29.  As you can see from the team names, and the years, he played in the NFL's earliest days.  As I discuss in greater detail in the Feb. 10, 2016 post, statistics for the NFL in the 1920's are very limited.  So while Driscoll is listed as a quarterback, it's difficult to determine if he was the "real" quarterback throughout much of his career.  For example, in the Cardinals 1925 season, for which they were the NFL champs, Red Dunn is credited with throwing all the Cardinals touchdown passes.  So while Driscoll certainly was on a title-wining team, he might not have been the true quarterback during that season.

 11) Sonny Jurgensen, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins, 1957-74.  Threw for 32,224 passing yards, 255 touchdown passes, and had an enormous for the time lifetime passer rating of 82.63.  No playoff starts, though, and of the four games he played in he only threw a pass in one.  However, he did play in the 1960 NFL Championship Game with the victorious Eagles, so he won a title game, just not as a starter.

















































Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Icelandic Dairy Product

     I was a bit excited when I saw a product in the yogurt aisle recently (at Wegman's again, as I recall).  Since Iceland is so small and isolated, finding its native cuisine is quite a challenge.  Earlier this year (April 20, 2016) I discussed several Icelandic beers and liquors in a post, and now I can add something else.
     Skyr (pronounced "skeer") is a traditional Icelandic dairy product.  NOT a yogurt, as the container and website both emphasized.  It's made slightly differently, and is produced using different strains of bacteria cultures.  To make it a small portion (from previous batches) is added to warm milk to introduce the correct bacteria cultures.  Rennet is sometimes added, too.  The result is left to coagulate, and then is strained through fabric to remove the whey.  Modern makers also sometimes add flavoring, mostly in the form of berries.  Skyr was originally a Norwegian tradition.  About 1100 years ago it was introduced to Iceland, and since it's become a traditional, popular cuisine.  Oddly, according to the sources I read, the Norwegians themselves evidently weren't as keen about it, and mostly allowed this food tradition to go extinct.  Although evidently the Norwegians reacquired their taste for it, as Iceland now exports skyr to Norway, as well as Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Ireland, The Netherlands, Germany, the U.K., the U.S., Latvia, and Lithuania.
     The most common method of consuming it is cold, with milk and sugar.  However, there are some varients.  "Hraeringur" is a mixture of skyr and porridge.  Sometimes it's eaten as a dessert--mixed with jams or fruit, or put atop cheesecake.  It's also occasionally mixed with fish at dinner, or combined with cereal at breakfast.  Skyr is high in protein and calcium, and low in fat.  Additionally, the website for Icelandic Provisions, who made the skyr I tried, noted that their product is gluten free, artificial flavor free, and contains no GMO's or preservatives.
     I should also mention that while the website acknowledges a certain similarity to Greek style yogurt, they want you to know it's definitely different.
     I got the blueberry with bilberry flavor, as that was the only option.  Other kinds made by the company are one with cloudberries (which are evidently somewhat scarce, and taste like baked apples), one with lingonberries (see my September 23, 2013 post for more info about this fruit), and some with more common fruits like raspberries, strawberries, and peaches, sometimes combined together.  Also a coconut and vanilla kind.  Bilberries are touted as being more intense than their blueberry kin, but they seem pretty similar, both in their appearance and taste.  It seems that bilberries are essentially the European version of blueberries.  (So mixing them both together appears a bit boring and tame, now that I think of it.)  Bilberries have long been alleged to help with various medical ailments, such as blood pressure problems, hemorrhoids, diabetes, kidney disease, UTis, etc.  Also they're thought to particularly help improve peoples' eyesight.  During World War 2 RAF pilots ate them for this effect.  Well, I have to resort to one of my cliches once more.  The evidence for bilberries being a cure-all, or even treatment-all, is lacking.  For example, a study about the eyesight benefits from consuming them concluded that they probably didn't make a difference.  So eating bilberries is healthy, but in the normal fruit way, and almost certainly not as an effective treatment for your elephantiasis, or your drug-resistant TB, or whatever.
     Anyway, I found the blueberry/bilberry skyr to be pretty good.  The berry flavor was detectable, and decent.  I thought it was slightly thicker than regular yogurt.  But, I think it tasted pretty much like regular yogurt.  I know the makers would probably be irritated with this opinion, but there it is.  I don't think I could have distinguished between the two in a blind taste test, for example.  This isn't a criticism of skyr--I like yogurt just fine, and I would buy this kind of skyr again, and/or its other flavors if given the opportunity.  But I have to admit that I was kind of hoping it would be more different from regular yogurt, something dramatically unique and special.  Alas, I guess.