Sunday, May 12, 2013

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Ottumwa, Iowa Cuisine and Guest Blog Info

     Just finished up a project in Ottumwa, Iowa, so I thought I’d discuss some food items I found there.  For those not up on that part of the world, Ottumwa is a small town in southeastern Iowa, about 20 miles west of Fairfield, which is known for its Maharishi University (the guru associated with the Beatles, at least for a time).
     First up is Wild Bill’s Bacon Jerky.  To be fair, I’ve also seen this in Ohio, so it’s apparently more of a Midwest treat.  And a treat it is—unlike most jerky, it’s not tough and dry.  Somehow it’s comparatively tender and even moist.  It’s not as great as bacon off the stove, but as far as bacon processed in a bag, suitable for no preparation snacking, it’s very good.  The cartoon pitch-cowboy on the package proclaims, “It’s Bodacious!” and I for one am not inclined to argue.
     Next up are pine nuts.  These are a commonly eaten food worldwide, popular in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the American Southwest in particular, of a variety of pine species.  However, this was first time I saw them in a grocery store, so I snapped them right up.  Traditionally they’re mixed in with entrées, or are part of salads, or even desserts.  Given my almost total lack of cooking/food preparation, I simply opened up the jar and had at them.  They’re okay—not as tasty as cashews, peanuts, pistachios, or macadamias, but decent.  Rather sesame seed-ish in their flavor.  And, to be fair, a better test would have been mixed up in a meal, etc., so I’ll give them another try when I can.  One word of danger, though.  Pine nuts can cause a condition called “pine nut syndrome,” or “pine mouth,” a distortion of the taste buds.  This temporary affliction can last for a few days up to a couple of weeks, and results in a bitter, metallic taste for all foods eaten.  Scientists are still studying this, and preliminary results suggest it may be caused by the chemical used to shell certain Chinese pine nuts.  Finally, the jar of nuts I bought had something unique about it—it listed them as coming from “Turkey or China.”  Usually food locations are a little more precise…
     Continuing on, I sampled some sweet pickled watermelon rinds.  With some trepidation—I’m not a big watermelon fan, as I think it’s mostly tasteless and not worth the bother.  As with the pine nuts, the jar mentioned putting them in with meats, salads, or even wrapped in bacon as an appetizer.  And once again, I ignored this and just stuck a fork in the jar and started chowing down.  Happily, I really liked these—the pickling process really added a nice tart “zing” to them.  They were akin to gherkins (or sweet, bread and butter pickle chips), but with their own spin.  Pickled watermelon rinds are actually a Southern (U.S.) delicacy (the brand I tried was “Old South”), although I haven’t seen them for sale in my travels down there.  The jar mentioned that the first U.S. cookbook ever contained a recipe for them (although it neglected to include an author name, title, or copyright date).
     Finishing up, there’s the chocolate cheese.  Not be confused with chocolate and cheese separately (or the Ween album of that same name), but mixed together.  Really.  Cheddar cheese, cocoa, and walnuts all living in harmony, made by the folks at Shullsburg Creamery in Wisconsin (of course).  Sounds weird, I know.  Anyway, it was very good—tasted a lot like chocolate fudge.  In face, I’d like to do a blind test with the two to see if I could differentiate them.  The cheese itself seems to add more texture than flavor, although it’s possibly a little sharper than regular fudge.  So a little strange, but definitely worth a try.
     Also, I’d like to give a shoutout to Ottumwa’s bowling alley, Bridge City Bowl.  Their Sunday special had a deal of 10 games for $5.  Yes, $5!  I’ve spent more than that for one game at some alleys.  And their pitchers of New Belgium’s Fat Tire were $6.50 before 5 p.m., so cheap all around.
     And in writing this I realized I missed an opportunity—next time I’ll have to try rolling a pickled watermelon rind in a Wild Bill’s Bacon Jerky slice.
     One more note—tomorrow I’ll be guest blogging on Musa Publishing’s blog with a post about some humorous and bizarre 2013 Writer’s Guidelines.  The address is:

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