Out of Kilter

Ken Carpenter's Out of Kilter has hit the web. The same original blend of history and humor. None of the editorial restrictions.

Tales from Gnomeville

I always loved Gnomes, and it would be very cool if they really existed. Who knows, maybe they do. What I don’t love about them is that I resemble one, both in stature and appearance. Maybe attitude too, but not having conversed with one I’m not sure about that.
The following story is from 2002, in the middle of my last bachelor days. I am not sure how that affected my writing, though the story does touch upon bare boobs and the sexual proclivity of Gnomes. Oh yeah, I forgot, I was living the life of a monk during that period. Anybody want to buy the Brooklyn Bridge?

An ordinary human must suffer many indignities throughout their lifetime, and many times the indignity of the indignity is that their own flesh and blood is the cause of it. In my case, the sour fruit of my loins, my youngest son, has decided his poor old Pappy is deserving of a nickname that is based primarily on physical stature. I am now known as the Gnome, even in the sanctity of my own home!
Deciding not to take this latest insult lying down, I dug out my Gnome encyclopedia and did a little research. I am not making this up, I have a 1” x 9” x 12” hardcover book that tells everything you ever, or never, wanted to know about Gnomes. It was a present from my sister 20 years ago, and she no doubt thought it hilarious that the book includes a full color picture of bare Gnome bosoms. More on that later.
The first discrepancy I discovered concerning my new moniker is that Gnomes are only six inches tall, so even my stubby little legs are taller than they are. Maybe only by an inch or two, but taller nonetheless.
Gnomes are very hairy little dudes, and I admit a few people to whom insults are the candy of life have called me a hairy ape. But Gnomes, even though they can live for 500 years, never go bald. So (Hah!) that slowly spreading bald spot on my dome is yet another clue that if I have any Gnome blood in me at all, it is tainted. The fact that I have a beard, as all Gnomes do, is circumstantial evidence at best.
Gnomes are reputed to be master craftsmen who can create wonderful and useful objects from the most rudimentary of materials. Building projects under my power become monuments to ineptitude where the only square thing around is the builder.
The favorite headgear of a Gnome is a red, peaked, dunce-style hat. I do not like dunce hats, even when I am sitting in the corner. I do, however, have a green elf hat that pops up around Christmas, but I don’t think it counts.
Legend has it that Gnomes are the veterinarians of the forest, mending and helping animals of all kinds. They are also vegetarians, so they help out in that way too. I eat meat, and while I may have a serviceable bedside manner, folks or creatures in need of medical attention would do well to look past my Tylenol wielding mitts.
Gnomes remain sexually active for 400 years, or at least they have spread the rumor they do. While I would enjoy such a reputation, the world’s best PR guy would be unlikely to convince anyone of that.
Now I have to digress for a minute, for it is time to get back to the bosoms. The little Gnome Mama in the picture has to be named Dolly, for of her ten ounces of weight, four must be bosom. The footnote below the drawing says that Gnome ladies have no need for bras because gravity has little effect on such small beings. Keeping that in mind, I would advise humans with sagging parts to make extensive use of the line “ It’s that pesky gravity” when they feel an explanation is necessary.
I now feel I can rest my case. If my gigantic son, all of three inches taller than me, insists on continuing to call me a Gnome, I can rest easy knowing he has based his conclusion on misinformation. Except for one thing. Gnomes have long memories and they always get their revenge.

Silly, grave-dancing, poop-sharing geese

The following story is from 2003, and I can’t remember what inspired it. Probably a dose of goosebumps, which would really be a rarity if it was as roasting hot as it has been lately.
Geese are not renowned as the smartest birds in the world, though they are smart enough to fly in a V with the first one breaking the wind. Hmmm, I could have stated that different, even though I have no doubts that a goose can fart up a storm.
Anyway, my goose story is fairly short so it shouldn’t be too intimidating. Have a nice, goosebumpy day. As if!

Help! A moose walked over my grave and I can’t stop shivering!

“Whatsamatter, a goose walk over your grave?”
Many folks can rely on hearing this remark almost every time they suffer an unexplainable shiver, like the one you get if you visualize your Great Aunt Bessie wearing a string bikini.
My question is, how did geese become renowned for loitering in cemeteries? It is not like there are legions of beady-eyed geese in little black trench coats roaming the countryside looking for graves to dance a jig on.
If the powers that control such things are determined for a goose to be involved, the saying should be “Whatsamatter, did a goose dropping splatter on your grave?”
That would be the more likely event to occur, for geese fly all over the place and they have notoriously rude toilet manners. Not to mention, their droppings are big enough to bring a cow to its knees if hit in the head from 500 feet up.
It would still make a lot more sense to blame a shiver on the future footsteps of a moose or a hippo, whose size would make it much more likely for a tiny shudder to be sent back through eternity.
I suppose there could be a future tribe of super geese with ESP-powered brains the size of one of Dolly Parton’s bosoms that might be able to mail us a shiver, but I doubt it.
It’s not that I don’t believe in psychic phenomenon, because I am always ready to accept the existence of ghosts, spirits, banshees, and other assorted entities. I just don’t want any goosey ones messing with me. It’s creepy.
There is one goose-related term I like. It is ‘a gaggle of geese’, which just has a ring to it that is pleasing to the ear. Gaggle is a Middle English word meaning ‘to cackle’, which if I am not mistaken is how chickens communicate. Anyway, it came to stand for a flock of geese who are not in flight and is often used to describe a pack of humans who are all experiencing overly excited vocal cords at the same time.
I often call my four wiener dogs silly geese, which is probably a cliché by now but it seems to fit. Geese do not seem any sillier than any other birds or animals to me, but they are stuck with that reputation now and are not likely to lose it at this stage.
As a matter of fact, a ‘murderous goose’ would seem to be more accurate, at least from my experience. Any bull goose I ever met was interested in one thing above all others.
Sneaking up behind me and giving the back of my thighs the deadly goose-twist pinch, which could bring a giant ape to tears.
Geese are cranky and have little tolerance for strangers, and if anyone has a use for a guard dog they might consider opting for a guard goose. Except for their toilet manners, which as I already mentioned are atrocious and unlikely to change with any amount of training.
Hmmmm, something seems to have just walked over my future resting place, for I just endured a sudden shiver from the blue.
I am kind of hoping for a moose.
I want nothing to do with one of those Parton-brained geese from the future.

A garlic lover’s salute

I could almost eat garlic with every meal, though I have yet to dredge up the nerve to try it on pancakes. It might surprise me, but I have my doubts.
It’s history is interesting, in many ways I never expected. I suppose nothing about garlic should be puzzling though, it is truly magical what it can do to jazz up an otherwise bland dinner.
It can also jazz up an otherwise low spice love life, if rumors are true. The following story, from 2006, addresses this in a mostly respectful manner. Mostly, I say.
So, if you dare, catch up on some garlic trivia. If the household cook starts throwing minced garlic in everything, watch your butt. The house could heat up in a hurry.

Oh garlic; plant those lips upon me

If I have one culinary weakness in my life, it is garlic. Garlic, known for mysterious reasons since Roman times as the “stinking rose”, is nothing less than a gastronomic treasure. I used to buy it by the 48-ounce jar, minced, and heap it into everything I cook. Now I have switched to fresh, but like it in any form. There is virtually nothing it can’t make better, with the possible exception of chocolate pudding.
There are those who might disagree, for garlic ice cream is popular at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California. Over 100,000 people a year attend it, making it the largest food festival in America. Gilroy claims to be the garlic capitol of the world, and Will Rogers once said it was the only place in the world you could marinate a steak just by hanging it up outside.
I hope to sample their wares someday. Garlic is, as once was written, “the sovereign extract of the Earth”.
Garlic has been used in cooking and medicine for thousands of years. It has been reputed at one time or another to cure baldness, snakebite, insomnia, rabies, and numerous other afflictions. It is recognized for its antioxidant, antibiotic and antiseptic properties, and garlic pills are sometimes prescribed to battle high cholesterol and high blood pressure. There are those who think it can reduce the size of tumors.
Some matadors think it dissuades a charging bull, and it has been used to repel mosquitoes, vampires, witches, amorous widows and crocodiles.
Come to think of it, I never met a pizza gobbling crocodile named Luigi.
To dream that there is garlic in the house is supposed to be lucky, while dreaming about eating it could mean that you will discover hidden secrets. I don’t know what it means if you dream about dancing the polka with a giant, smiling garlic clove.
Perhaps it means you are fated to meet Wayne Newton in the local pantyhose shop.
A very odd aspect of garlic history is that it has at different times been connected with both good and evil. On one hand, it is said that garlic sprouted from the spot where Satan’s left foot touched when he left the Garden of Eden. Not good. Then again, it is also used to ward off the “evil eye” in parts of Europe, and has traditionally been a crucial ingredient in anti-vampire lore.
I’ll take my chances, so flavor mine garlic. If I’m wrong, no biggie, I always had a devilish side.
Speaking of devilish, Tibetan monks are forbidden to enter the monasteries if they have eaten garlic. Why? It is quite simple really, because there has been medical, scientific and (ahem) personal studies that prove garlic is an aphrodisiac.
Monks do not like embarrassing situations, and garlic’s tendency to “inflame” is legendary. I guess if the monks robes suddenly resembled vertical tents with tent poles it might become scandalous.
I don’t know how much you have to eat to produce this condition. As much as my wife likes garlic, even she has noted how strong my dinners have been with the pungent bulb lately. Research continues.
The bubonic plague was still, well, plaguing Europe in 1772. Except for four grave-robbers from Marseilles, that is. They raided plague victim’s corpses with immunity, thanks to a trade secret, garlic-infused vinegar. They ate it, soaked their clothes in it, and breathed through rags anointed with it. There is still a garlic-vinegar known as the Vinegar of the Four Thieves.
I wonder if they were popular with the ladies.
It is beyond doubt that garlic can give you a serious case of dragon breath. You can fight it like you would any other case of halitosis, but don’t knock yourself out. If you eat enough it will still come out of your pores anyway, negating the effects of your sweetened breath.
That’s OK though, I don’t care if you smell like garlic.
Us garlicophiles have to stick together.

This dip is not just for drips

I must say that the last week snuck by so fast that I had no idea my last post was so long ago. Oh well, a new story follows if anyone gives a crap.
I first tried hummus a few years ago and liked it from the start. Many people, including my wife, would rather gag down a maggot than eat it. Many say, if they even dare try one bite, that it is a texture thing. Texture smexture I say.
As usual I have thrown in historical and trivia about my subject, garbanzo beans, which is the main ingredient in hummus. If you haven’t tried it I suggest that you do.

Hummus is not pleasant to some among us

For many years I had a dislike for garbanzo beans, or chickpeas if you prefer. The reason for this dislike was the many 3-bean salads I stumbled across at far too many potlucks. Everybody always raved on his or her particular recipe, and I found them all disgusting. They were far too sweet in my book, and since that was the only way I was exposed to garbanzos, they got their share of the blame. I literally went decades without eating any, and I must admit that large red kidney beans are still my least favorite bean, and I love beans. I guess I still blame them for their role in 3-bean salad.
I still pass on 3-bean salad, but a few years ago somebody opened my mind up to a new way to enjoy garbanzos: hummus. The name alone is enough to turn off the picky eaters of the world, and I know plenty of people, primarily men, who refuse to even try it.
Their nostrils usually flare distastefully when they decline, the cowards, and I delight in devouring mounds of hummus in front of them. Usually they do a disappearing act, gills growing green.
The earliest known hummus recipe dates from 13th century Egypt, but chickpeas are one of the world’s oldest cultivated crops. Some wild chickpea carbon dates back almost 10,000 years. If true, I don’t believe it took until the 13th century for somebody to mash garbanzos with a few other ingredients and eat it with a wild root of some kind.
I have not found a hummus yet that I do not like. The standard recipe is chickpeas, sesame paste, lemon and garlic mashed into a paste that can be dipped with chips, bread or veggies. There are a million versions, and in the past few years it has gotten very popular in America.
By 2010, hummus consumption had increased 35% in less than two years, its use reported in almost 20% of American households and sales reaching $300 million. It is still not the staple it is in the Mideast and India, but us hummus lovers are multiplying daily.
There are those who do not trust trendy things, those who are suspicious of foreign things and those who flat out do not like the taste, but I think the name itself is what turns many people off. Hummus does not exactly roll off the tongue like “double cheeseburger” or “chunky bleu cheese” do. Love them both by the way, but hummus is a very healthy alternative to dips and sandwich fillers of all kinds.
My wife would rather eat a goat dropping taco than a bite of hummus. One taste had her “texture overload” kicking in, and she hated the taste as well. (She denies the taco accusation.)
My research discovered an interesting tidbit about garbanzo beans. A great many people worldwide believe that the lowly chickpea increases energy AND the sexual desires of both men and women. You may want to avoid serving any at the next PTA meeting.
Sheik Omar Abu Mohammed, a 16th century Magrebi Arab, wrote in The Perfumed Garden of Sensual Delight, an Arabic sex manual, that chickpeas can cure impotence and should certainly be eaten to serve as a sexual stimulant.
I wish I could add that he was a famous tent maker, but, alas, I do not have that information. A lady friend of mine suggested that he was probably a sheepherder, but I snorted and declined comment.
In any regards, my respect for the lowly garbanzo rises the more I learn about it. It is not just a perfect source of delicious protein and the most popular bean in the world. Nine million tons were grown, almost six million in India alone, in 2008.
Garbanzos and all of their beany brothers have one other thing in common besides being low fat and highly nutritious. They have the unsavory reputation of creating flatulence in the humans who devour them. I found the rating for the top ten beans, from the gassiest to the least gassy, and thought perhaps it could prove to be useful information to certain people’s plans. Here goes.

1. soybeans
2. pink beans
3. black beans
4. pinto beans
5. small white beans
6. great northern beans
7. baby lima beans
8. chickpeas
9. large lima beans
10. black-eyed peas

It really surprised me that soybeans were number one. I guess if anybody out there has a hot date, stay away from the tofu burgers. It may not be a problem; many of the same people who refuse to try hummus also refuse to try tofu. They all hog chili down though.
It is said that the more often you eat beans, the less they affect you. I recommend a serving or two of hummus every day with raw vegetables or pita chips. It can be quite addicting, is very healthy and is so easy to make you don’t have to buy it prepared unless you want to.
If your spouse complains about the side effects that your hummus habit is producing, buy them a jar of 3-bean salad. If they don’t hit you over the head with it, they will eat it in self-defense and you are In like Flynn.
Just don’t buy them a soy or tofu product. You might live to regret it.

Too many details on French fries

The following story was written in 2005 and contains history and facts about French fries. I know people who would eat them every day if they didn’t have to cook them. As for me, I probably don’t eat them once a month. I don’t get along with deep fried very well these days, but I do like crunchy fries with fish, burgers or alone when I get the urge.
Garlic or chili fries are my favorite. At home they are always baked to a golden turn and dipped in bleu cheese dressing.
Exquisite, and no grease!

The french fry is the king of lardy things

There is nothing quite as satisfying as hogging down a large order of french fries dipped in a tangy sauce. Who cares if they have 540 calories and 26 grams of fat without the sauce?
Hah! We spit in the face of hardened, shrinking arteries. Of course, we will only spit for a while before we keel over, but that doesn’t change the fact that fries are tasty.
Imagine for a moment that you have 12 large orders of Mc Donalds fries in front of you. Or, for you wussies who never order a large, 30 small orders. Now that your mind table is heaped up, you have six minutes to eat them all. Every last one.
That is what you would have to do to break the french fry eating record by two ounces. The record is 4.46 pounds in six minutes, an ingestion of 6210 calories and 299 grams of fat in the time it takes a normal person to properly scratch their behind.
On second thought, if it takes you that long to kill such an itch I suggest you do it behind a locked door while dialing your doctor.
The average American eats somewhere between 16 and 30 pounds of fries per year. Estimates differ, probably depending on if the individual pollster supersizes or not. Regardless, somebody is getting more than their share since I only treat myself to them about six or seven times a year. My ancestry is mostly French too, but I do not feel one bit traitorous for denying myself the fatty treats.
While the French claim to have invented french (no capital) fries, it was quite likely Belgium that did so. The debate continues, but the origin of the lowly potato is much clearer.
The Incas first started cultivating the wild tubers around 750 B.C., and they soon became an important food staple. They were so critical that several potato gods were worshiped, and any crop failure prompted the sacrifice of the nose and lips of a number of unlucky peasants.
I don’t know why those particular parts were picked on, besides the fact that a noseless, lipless peasant could still wield a hoe in the tater patch. Maybe the nose was chosen because an especially bulbous beak resembles a potato. One can only imagine the bone chilling fear felt by any peasant nicknamed Potato Nose, although Yam Lips would have been a close second on the terror scale. Oddly enough, the nose theme would return centuries later in another guise.
Spain introduced the spud to Europe in the 1500’s, nicknaming them “edible stones”. For 150 years or so they were only considered edible by beasts, prisoners and Irishmen. The Scots thought them unholy because they were not mentioned in the bible, yet those very same believers would wolf down a sheep’s stomach filled with lung bits just like they had good sense.
In 1744 the King of Germany ordered all peasants to grow potatoes to fight off the latest famine. As an incentive, he threatened to have the noses chopped off of all who disobeyed. The nose, the nose, always the nose.
In the late 1700’s a Frenchman named Parmentier became the champion of the lowly potato. He devised the ingenious plan of planting a field of potatoes, guarding it heavily during the day, then leaving it unguarded at night. Naturally all the common folk thought anything worth guarding was worth stealing, and before you knew it potatoes were grown and devoured all over Europe, by all classes of folk.
It is not known when the first potato slice was introduced to a bath in hot oil, but by the 1830’s fries were popular all over France and Belgium. While Thomas Jefferson occasionally served them in the White House, it was another 100 years or so before they found their niche in America.
American soldiers coming home from France after World War I brought at least two things with them, the name “french fry” and a powerful appetite for the fried sticks. That craving caught on with the rest of the country and spawned what is now a multi-billion dollar business. About 4.5 billion pounds of processed french fries are sold each year in the good, old lard loving USA.
My sainted mother-in-law and her sister have spent their entire adult lives sampling french fries in a vain attempt to find some that can match the ones their Mom made in a battered kettle full of hog lard. She has the bypass to prove it, she says, but plans to continue her search because some things just can’t be sacrificed.
Getting back to the nose thing for a minute, the french fry has proven disgustingly adaptable to another unfortunate use. Have you ever been seated in a fast food restaurant and had the misfortune to look across the room and see some crass comedian wannabe sitting there with french fries poking out of each nostril? He (it is never a she) always sits there with his beady eyes darting about, pleased as punch.
It is a startling sight to behold, and for all of you who have a hard time skipping the fries, I hope you see it soon.

An old story about flies and the habits we hate

This tale was done in 2002, and it is one of my favorites. Flies are not cool, and while they can’t read it is perfectly OK to toss verbal and written insults at them. It is not like they care either way.
They aren’t yet up to full force at this time of year, but there are still plenty. The story took place in the fall when they are even more irritating than normal. The only thing in their favor is that they can’t sting like a bee.
They smash just fine though.

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