Sunday, December 30, 2012

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Scorpions

     Working outdoors as I do, it’s not uncommon to see the local animals.  Some of the highlights of my career include viewing moose in northern New Hampshire (which look incredibly ungainly, yet huge and quite intimidating at the same time) and black bears (most of these in, of all places, northwestern New Jersey, by the Delaware Water Gap).  This year, on the southeast Tennessee job I added another—scorpions, specifically the bark scorpion.  I thought this was particularly neat because I didn’t realize that scorpions were found in the eastern U.S.—I figured they were only out west, especially the southwest states.
     The scorpions were pretty cool—tiny (about an inch or two long), yellowish brown, and in two cases, complete with even tinier whitish babies on the mothers’ backs.  Bark scorpions are relatively harmless to humans.  Their stings give victims about fifteen minutes of intense pain, but the only (extremely rare) deaths are from anaphylactic shock due to an allergy.  Certainly I was more concerned about the frequent rattlesnakes and copperheads in the project area, especially when I learned that rattlesnakes even climb trees, from a coworker named Jeremy who almost got face-bit from one of these nimble vipers.  We mostly saw the scorpions just under the leaf litter, and I spent many breaks and lunches clearing around me in the (usually futile) hope of finding more.
     A few weeks before Christmas I was researching exotic/disgusting foods, and discovered, lo and behold, that a company sells scorpions, and will ship them to you.  In fact, it’s a company I was familiar with—Hot Lix (  They sell various unusual animals encased in lollipops, and I wasted little time in ordering up a Scorpion Sucker—Apple Flavor.  The ingredients are, “Malltol syrup, scorpion, artificial flavor and coloring (yellow 5, blue 1).”  (See photo above.)
     I began eating it.  The apple flavor of the lollipop was okay.  However, I realized that dissolving it in the normal way would probably result in the scorpion being broken apart, as separate body parts would slowly be exposed.  Also, I’ve had apple flavored candies before, so that wasn’t the focus of this treat.  Therefore, I decided to melt the candy off, leaving the intact scorpion for me to try.  And before anyone says anything, I realize that gourmet chefs like Julia Child and Rachael Ray strongly recommend using a convection oven to cook lollipops off of scorpions, but I was in a hotel, so I had to make do with a microwave.  That worked pretty well, and I was left with a scorpion that was still mostly intact and relatively candy-free.
     And it was good.  I tried the various body sections separately (tail, claws, body), and they all tasted about the same.  It was crunchy, not surprisingly, but also had a nutty flavor.  I would eagerly try it again, hopefully prepared in another way.  Evidently the Chinese consider it a delicacy, and I believe frying them is a common cooking method.  The Chinese also put scorpions (and sometimes together with snakes) in a type of wine that’s considered to be medicinal.  I wonder if guys make a macho game of eating the scorpion and/or snake after a bottle is killed, a la the worm in a bottle of mezcal.
     Hot Lix included a phone number, so I used it to find out which species I’d consumed (and yes, this might have gotten me on some FBI watch list, but I was curious).  The company was very helpful, and told me I’d had an individual of the type Paruroctonus Mesaensis.  The common names for this are the dune or desert scorpion, and it’s native to Arizona, California, and Nevada.  A scientific journal article also called it the “cannibalistic scorpion,” although evidently this behavior is common for a lot of species.  Therefore, I hope that I dined on a desert/dune scorpion which subsisted on a diet of desert/dune scorpions.  I wonder if these scorpions also think that their kind’s flesh has a nutty flavor.  (Incidentally, and you might want to stop eating before you read this, whether it’s also a scorpion or something else, scorpions eat in a repulsive way.  The can only ingest liquids, meaning that they have to use “external digestion.”  This essentially means that they puke digestive juices on their food, and then suck it down after the juices have dissolved the solids.)
     Also, during the same Tennessee job, another coworker named Jen happened to mention a weird story about scorpions.  She’d heard that if you dropped alcohol on one it would get drunk almost immediately, and then sting itself to death in a suicidal (or extremely clumsy homicidal) rage.  Sure enough, there were some videos of this experiment online, and I watched folks dripping vodka and Bailey’s on captive individuals.  It appears to be a myth.  Both scorpions seemed to suffer no ill effects, certainly not fatal ones (I suppose it’s possible that they became intoxicated, but I don’t know how that would be tested—have them crawl a straight line?  Recite the alphabet?).  One (I think it was the one that got the Bailey’s shower) did freak out a little and sting about violently, but this appeared to be directed at the alcoholic beverage drops, and it didn’t sting itself.
     We also wondered if a scorpion could actually pierce its own exoskeleton with its stinger.  Apparently they can, as their cannibalism suggests that they do this to others of their kind, since it is their preferred hunting method.  Additionally, during mating males occasionally sting females with a small amount of venom before consummating their romance, probably to sedate the ladies so they don’t try to eat their man later.  And some species are among those rare animals that can reproduce by parthenogenesis, meaning no sex is necessary, and unfertilized eggs can mature into young.  Sounds a bit dull to me, but it does avoid the unpleasant acts of either slightly poisoning your girlfriend before sex, or ripping apart and consuming your boyfriend afterwards.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Kumquats

     I realize that calling kumquats “exotic” may be pushing it a little, but I decided to write about them anyway because 1) They’re new to me  and 2) They have a delightfully silly name.
     Kumquats are a Southeast Asian fruit, and have been cultivated for at least a millennium.  Their name is the English approximation of the Chinese (Cantonese) name.  They’re commonly grown in China, Japan, the Philippines, and Southeast Asia in general.  They were introduced to Europe in 1846, and in the U.S. shortly thereafter.  Due to their relative frost-hardiness (for a citrus fruit, anyway), they’re now grown across the world, including the Southeast U.S.  This fruit is also becoming popular as a different garnish for martinis, or as a vodka flavor, as well as being made into jams and preserves.  The Chinese even use dried, salted kumquats mixed with hot water as a sore throat remedy.
     Unlike most other citrus fruits, the rind is edible.  Now here’s the weird part—the rind is known for being sweet, while the fruit inside is sour, or tart.  Some folks eat the entire thing as a sweet/sour mashup, but others peel it, eat the rind, and discard the fruit itself (!).  I can’t think of another fruit example where this is done.
     As for my review, I have to give kumquats a “thumbs up.”   There are several varieties, but the kind I tried was the oval kumquat, which is about the size of a large olive, and looks like a little orange, with the same orange-yellowish rind when ripe.  I found the rind to be more mild than sweetish, but I could taste the nice contrast when I bit into the entire thing at once, rind and fruit.  They’re good, kind of a bite-size combo of a orange-lemon type hybrid.  I’ll certainly try to get them again.
     The kumquats I bought were American grown, specifically in Dade City, Florida.  I learned that Dade City is big on them, so much so that they have an annual Kumquat Festival.  I enjoyed the packaging, too—billing them as “Nature’s Sweet Tarts,” and with an anthropomorphized kumquat character, complete with stem legs and arms, wearing a chef’s hat, and with a flirty look in her eyes (yes, judging from the eyelashes, the character appeared to be female).
     But enough maturity for today.  Let’s turn to the name.  It sounds both obscene and humorously awkward.  It makes me wonder if the fruit would sell better with a name change.  After all, I think the transition from “rapeseed” to “canola” oil proved beneficial.  Something for the kumquat industry to consider, I guess.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Gizzard

     While “gizzard” is sometimes used as a catchall term for guts or entrails, technically it’s a specialized offshoot of the stomach found in some birds, earthworms, gastropods, fish and reptiles.  This organ, which has thickly muscled walls, is used to grind up food.  For example, when birds eat, the food first goes into the storage area called the crop.  From there it passes into the proventriculus (often called the “true stomach”), where glandular secretions work at digestion.  Then the partially digested food goes into the gizzard, where it’s ground up, and from there sometimes goes back into the true stomach, or on to the small intestine.
     One of the weirdest aspects of the gizzard is that some animals with one, most notably birds, sometimes swallow grit or stones, which then lodge in the gizzard to help in the grinding.  These stones are then polished in the digestive action, and when they’re too smooth to function well, they’re either puked or crapped out.  The presence of these types of stones adjacent to fossils has led paleontologists to suspect that some dinosaur species had these organs, too.
     Hungry yet?  You might be surprised—chicken gizzard is actually a fairly popular food across the world.  It’s commonly eaten in Asia (China, Japan, Pakistan, Iran), Europe (Portugal, Hungary, Jewish cuisine), Africa (Nigeria, Uganda), the Caribbean (Haiti), and North America (chiefly in the Midwest U.S.).
     It’s also a major component of giblet gravy, along with the heart and liver.  So looking back, I realize that’s the first format in which I had gizzards, and it does explain something.  I generally like poultry hearts and liver, but some of the other meat parts I found nasty—probably our gizzard friend.
     I first had gizzards as a separate, recognizable dish in the Midwest, in the strangely-named Atlantic, Iowa.  It was an appetizer—fried gizzards, with a sauce.  And they were totally gross.  Gizzard meat was extremely tough and chewy, with no flavorful payoff.  It was similar to eating gristle.  Obviously, when something is battered and fried, and has a dipping sauce, this can improve (or mask) many mediocre or even subpar foods.  However, there are limits, and clearly this was one of these examples.  I almost wonder if leaving in some of the stones or grit might have actually improved the taste.  Suffice it to say, I was unable to finish the entire appetizer, even with a little unenthusiastic help from my dinner companions.
     Therefore, I strongly recommend staying away from gizzards.  In addition, it goes by several other names, so also avoid gigerium, ventriculus, or gastric mill (I think this last one might be okay for a band name, but surely terrible as an entrĂ©e).

Monday, December 10, 2012

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Gluten-Free Beers

     I first learned about celiac disease about four years ago, from a friend of mine named Chris.  It’s a genetic disorder, but sometimes other factors affect its severity.  In Chris’s case he didn’t develop it until he was in his late teens/early twenties, when he had a terrible bout of food poisoning while on vacation.  Ever since, if he eats wheat, barley, rye, or oats he experiences extreme abdominal pain and severe digestive problems.  He has an amazingly sensitive case, too—even the smallest amount of gluten can set him off.  While on projects several waitstaff or food preparers obviously either didn’t check to see if dishes were gluten-free, or weren’t careful about keeping orders separate, resulting in Chris essentially spending the next day or so in the bathroom.  It’s surprising how prevalent gluten is in foods—celiac sufferers miss out on tons of tasty meals.
     It’s not all gloomy, though.  Chris has learned how to prepare substitutes for many traditionally gluten-packed dishes, and his mother in particular specializes in delicious gluten-free desserts, like cookies and various cakes and pastries.  As celiac disease has become more diagnosed, and known about, more and more restaurants are including a safe meal or two, or sometimes even an entire menu page for those that have it.  Pizzeria Uno and Outback Steakhouse were two of the first U.S. chains to have these, possibly because they evidently had family members who had this affliction.
     Anyway, in addition to certain foods, celiac sufferers also are limited as to what alcoholic beverages they can enjoy, since many of these are made from those taboo grains.  Alas, beer, since it’s usually made from either barley or wheat is typically off limits.  Fortunately, a few breweries have taken it upon themselves to come up with gluten-free offerings.  By far the easiest one to get (sometimes it’s even on tap at particular bars) is, of course, the Anheuser-Busch one, Redbridge.  Other brands are Bard’s Tale, New Grist, and two U.K. types, St. Peter’s and Green’s, to name a few.  There’s some variation, but most of these use sorghum as the primary grain.  Corn, millet, rice, and buckwheat are also occasionally used, and most exotically, Sprecher Brewery makes Mbega Ale, made from bananas (!), as per a traditional African recipe.
     But on to the reviews.  I tried some of Chris’s Redbridge, and came away with an ambivalent reaction.  This sorghum-based beer tasted pretty similar to regular Budweiser.  Since I really only drink Budweiser if it’s the only beer sold in the place (something that’s sadly often the case in my travels across the small towns of much of the Eastern U.S.) that’s hardly a ringing endorsement.  But, on the other hand, it’s positive in that it was drinkable, it just resembled its weak, watery-tasting cousin.
     Recently I tried another kind, the Glutenator, made by Epic Brewing, from, of all places, Salt Lake City, Utah (really).  First off, I loved the name—I immediately pictured a cybernetic organism sent back from a dystopic future, one which “Doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear, and it absolutely will not stop, EVER, until all wheat, barley, and rye products are dead!” to paraphrase the movie line.  The website contends that this beer doesn’t use “astringent” sorghum, and instead Glutenator is made from millet, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and molasses.  It definitely had a distinctive flavor—starchy, and little fruity.  Good in its way, though, and certainly worlds better than Redbridge.  As with some other specialty beers I don’t know that I could drink it all night, but an occasional one or two wouldn’t be bad at all.  And for those beer aficionados who can’t have gluten I could see it being a very viable alternative.
     In closing, I hope this isn’t seen as being mocking towards celiac disease sufferers—as someone who had food allergies as a pre-pubescent (chocolate and egg yolk), I can personally sympathize with being unable to partake in some delicious foods.  And, of course, it’s not just celiac—some folks have gluten allergies, or just want to avoid/minimize gluten intake for other possible health reasons.  Some churches are adapting to this new health issue as well, as several Christian denominations are beginning to offer gluten-free Hosts for Communion.  And for those that are interested, May is Celiac Awareness Month.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Exciting Musa Publishing News!


Monday, December 3, 2012

Musa Publishing Announces Deal With Author Gary K. Wolf For Third Roger Rabbit Novel

 Musa Publishing, an independent digital-first publisher, has announced today that they will publish Who Wacked Roger Rabbit? by author Gary K. Wolf, the third book featuring Wolf's iconic character, Roger Rabbit, and the denizens of Toontown.

"When I first got a submission in the inbox from Gary K. Wolf, creator of Roger Rabbit, I must admit that I didn't take it seriously. After all, why would such a well-known author be coming to Musa?" confesses Musa Editorial Director, Celina Summers. "But after I read his submission, all my doubts were erased. No other author in the world has that distinct narrative voice. Rather quickly, we accepted two novels from Gary—The Late Great Show! and Typical Day—and Gary became part of the Musa family. But even then, I never expected he'd bring us a Roger Rabbit novel. "

Who Wacked Roger Rabbit? is the culmination of a twenty year wait for fans of the world that Wolf first created in his 1981 Hugo-winning Who Censored Roger Rabbit? The third installment in the series has been promised to fans for a long time but never released. Now, with the 25th anniversary of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? on the horizon in 2013 and  and confirmation of a completed Roger Rabbit 2 script by director Robert Zemeckis last week stirring up excitement among Roger Rabbit fans, the collaboration between Wolf and Musa is coming at a significant time.

"I could easily have published Who Wacked Roger Rabbit? through a major print publishing house. Instead, I choose to make this the first book of the Roger Rabbit series to be published digitally," Wolf states. "That decision evolves directly from the way I work, from the core philosophy of what I write and why I write it. I always push the boundaries in my writing. I invent worlds that nobody else ever thought about. I create unique characters and situations. I try to always be at the forefront of my craft. That includes the way my writing is presented to my readers. Digital publishing is clearly the future. It’s the way books are headed, so I’m heading that way, too."

With his first book at Musa, The Late Great Show!, released in October and his second novel, Typical Day, coming out on December 7, Wolf is no stranger to the Musa system. "I especially like the way Musa has taken digital publishing into areas that I never thought of. Using proprietary software, I’m able to interact with them electronically in real time. My editor, the publicity department, the art department, and everybody else involved with my work all have instant access to everything I submit. And vice versa."

Wolf isn't the only well-known author bringing his works to Musa. USA Today bestselling author Sharon De Vita has a multi-book deal with the publisher, and her romantic mystery The Estrogen Posse has been increasing in sales since its release in October, 2011. Science fiction up-and-comer Gini Koch's serial—The Martian Alliance—is being published by Musa, along with new and backlisted works from well-known authors like Cindi Myers, Vella Munn, Helen Hardt, and Julia Bell. In addition, Musa is responsible for the Homer Eon Flint project, where the entire body of work of this lost American science fiction author is being saved from crumbling 1920s pulp magazines and disintegrating newspaper copy and published as e-books.

"Even two or three years ago, it would have been thought impossible to lure these writers to a small, young publisher," Summers explains. "But because of our author-friendly policies and transparent business model, small publishers like Musa are able to release books like Who Wacked Roger Rabbit? digitally, with both a better product and prices far below what traditional publishers set for their e-books."

Both Summers and Wolf are optimistic about the prospects for Who Wacked Roger Rabbit? The novel reunites all the old fan favorites—Eddie Valiant, his fuzzy sidekick Roger Rabbit, Baby Herman, and Roger’s va-va-voom mate Jessica, who continue their madcap human and Toonian adventures. This time, Eddie is hired to bodyguard for Gary Cooper and Roger Rabbit, the stars of a new movie that's been receiving dire threats—shut down the film or else.

"Musa is thrilled to publish the next installment in the Roger Rabbit world," Summers says. "Toontown and e-publishing are destined to work well together. Gary has such an innovative mind. He takes risks daily with his fiction—he enjoys taking creative risks. He can do that comfortably at Musa because we encourage all our authors to reach further, to attempt things they normally wouldn't. E-publishing is all about trying things that traditional publishers might be uncertain about."

With the release of Who Wacked Roger Rabbit? set for November of 2013, Musa and Wolf are poised to gratify millions of Roger Rabbit fans across the world. The entertainment franchise is worth over $500,000,000 and the fandom is as eager as ever to follow their beloved Roger Rabbit and Eddie Valiant into new adventures—including e-publishing.

"Digital publishing is the wave of the future, and I’ve always been a wave of the future kind of guy," Wolf states matter-of-factly. "For me, going digital wasn’t in any way a last resort. It was a necessity."

Gary Wolf is the NYT Bestselling author of numerous book, articles, and short stories including Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, Who P-P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit?, Space Vulture, and The Late Great Show! His movie credits include Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, the three Roger Rabbit cartoons Tummy Trouble, Rollercoaster Rabbit, and Trail Mix-up, and—coming in 2014—screen adaptations of his science fiction novels The Resurrectionist and Killerball. Awards for Wolf’s work include the Hugo Award, British Science Fiction Award, SF Chronicle Award, and 4 Academy Awards. Wolf is an avid Yoga enthusiast and lives in Boston where he is a full-time author, screenwriter, lecturer, entertainment consultant, and consummate “grown-up kid.” Look for his next Roger Rabbit installment to be released November, 2013 by Musa Publishing.

The Late Great Show! and Typical Day are available through Musa Publishing,, and e-tailers worldwide.

More information available from Musa Publishing at and .
Liz DeJesus said...
That's incredible news! So exciting!!! :D I've always been a fan of the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit? *claps hands excitedly* YEY!!
Cindi Myers said...
Fabulous news. Congratulations!
Patricia said...
This is just TOO cool for words. Congratulations, Celina, and the whole Musa team for this tremendous collaboration.
George Wilhite said...
So awesome for Celina, Musa, all of us! I am FBing, tweeting, re-blogging and so forth!
Well, that's just awesome!! I totally agree with his reasons for seeking out digital publishing and Musa in particular. Industry leader. 'nuff said.
Sharon Ledwith said...
Virtual high fives for Musa Publishing and their stable of authors! As Roger would say, "That's B-B-Big News!"

Cheers to all at Musa Publishing!
Thrilled for all at Musa! Congrats to all those who work so hard.
This is awesome news and I am so excited for all of Musa and grateful to Celina and everyone who made this possible.
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