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.

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.

Bored of the Flies

The wheezing gasps of summer’s demise have been providing the background music for us lately. As usual they are accompanied by the intermittent buzzing of a multitude of overly melodious flies, eager to make their irritating presence known one last time, and known, and known again.
They are hateful creatures at best, delighting in doing the two-step on a pile of dung just before searching out your dinner plate so they can grab a quick bite of dessert. Filth is the nectar of the gods to them, and spreading it is their primary occupation. Followed closely by their favorite hobby, driving people crazy.
There are those among us who can be driven to distraction by a single housefly. As a child I remember watching my Dad stalk flies with a crazed glint in his eye, hurling curses after those with the audacity to escape his deadly swatter. He took it personal when they trespassed on his domain, and few things in life seemed to please him as much as squashing them like a, well, like a bug.
I have noticed that same deranged gleam in my boss’ eye when he is battling a particularly pesky fly, but I suppose it could have been the light. Yes, I’m sure it must have been the light, for my boss couldn’t possibly become unhinged from the simple act of being outmaneuvered by a brainless fly.
One infamous fly story from the past still makes me feel like I just swallowed a hairball every time I think about it. It was the mid-sixties, and Stinky (name changed to protect the far from innocent) was the bane of every grade school teacher’s existence.
His lack of interest in classroom activities was matched only by his enthusiasm for obnoxious behavior. That being said, he wasn’t a bad guy, he just enjoyed disrupting the best-laid plans of those around him, especially teachers.
On occasion Stinky liked to catch forty winks in class, and he was probably the only student who was encouraged to do so. If he was asleep he couldn’t talk, and when awake he didn’t listen anyway.
He had the disgusting habit of napping with his mouth open and his tongue hanging out, and those around him pretty much avoided looking at him when it was naptime. One time they didn’t, to their great dismay, and what they witnessed haunts me to this day.
One huge fly was sitting on Stinky’s tongue and two others were circling in the near vicinity, as if jockeying for position or waiting for landing directions from the flight deck. Maybe I forgot to mention that halitosis was another of Stinky’s claims to fame, and his sudden ability to draw flies did nothing to diminish this reputation.
This sorry spectacle was unfortunately not the last time flies were witnessed taking advantage of his inviting launch pad, and I am eternally grateful that I was in an older grade so I did not have to see it. Flies have no sense of decency, that is all there is to it. Only humans can rival them.
A while back I popped a cup of water in the microwave for two minutes and when it was done I opened the door and a fly flew right out into my face. Alarmed, I backed away and took a defensive position. Who knows what strange powers a microwaved insect might have?
Apparently one power a cooked brain does not give you is common sense. Superfly circled me twice, flying in a drunken manner, and then he suddenly charged in and attempted to give me a judo roll. Howling fiercely I gave him a mighty karate chop and thought for a second I had him. Instead, dazed, he flew off to the back room and disappeared.
Now it seems that I can feel his beady eyes peering at my back all over the house, and it is giving me the serious willies. I have killed a dozen flies, but none of them looked like they had been lifting weights so I don’t think he was one of them.
I even tried Stinky’s method of lying back with my tongue hanging out, as a last ditch effort to lure him into the open, but it failed miserably. I thank God it did too, for I don’t think I could live with myself if it had worked. In fact, I’m almost sure I’d rather die than draw flies.

Flashing is not a new sport

The following story was written in 2006, and while my life has changed considerably since then, my tendency to attract odd situations has not. As long as there are Carpenters in the world it is likely that this curse will have some kind of effect on them too.
My sweet sister Elana, who passed away just over a year ago, was also a magnet for the bizarre. While crossing a street in Spokane many years ago she met a well-dressed man wearing a, drum roll please, trench coat. When they neared each other he suddenly whipped his coat open and flashed her. Without missing a step or a beat she looked at “it” and said, “I’ve seen better.” She then giggled her way to her office and the flasher moped his not-so-merry way down the street, shoulders slumped.
So, if anybody aspires to a career as a flasher keep in mind that there can be occupational hazards. Good thing Elana wasn’t carrying an umbrella.

Diary of a mad flasher

I have a disturbing confession to make, and I fear the world may never be the same. It seems that I have, quite innocently, and without malice, morphed into a flasher. I can already see some of you shaking your heads and muttering “I knew it all the time! Those close set beady eyes are always a dead giveaway!”
It was an accident, I tell ya. It started as I was groggily stumbling out to get the morning paper a few days ago. I was wearing only my slippers and a tattered robe, and while rubbing the remnants of a poor night’s sleep from my close set beady eyes, I happened to step on the end of my improperly tied belt.
That tiny step for mankind turned into a huge one for me, starting a not so slow-motion chain reaction that had the unfortunate grand finale of pulling loose my belt and whipping my robe wide open, exposing my wares for all the world to see. If the entire world were birds, bees and the neighbor’s cat, it wouldn’t have been so bad. Fate always seems to have something special in store for me though.
Somehow I don’t think the three workers down the street thought it was special at all. Unless they had eyes like a starving eagle they may not have spied anything specific, but somehow I think the image of a plump, hairy, unsheathed body popping out at you when you are minding your own business would be disconcerting, if not downright disgusting. At least they didn’t hold up scorecards with a 1.0 grade on them.
I didn’t wait around to see their reaction, closing my robe in record time, snatching the paper out of the box and hurrying back into the house with my tail between my legs. My tail, err, tale, gave my wife a bad case of the giggles until we left for work, and she wasted no time firing off an e-mail to her Mom so she could join in the fun.
For some odd reason, the simple act of getting the morning paper has turned into a treacherous ordeal around our house. A few weeks before my unveiling my wife made the short trek to the paper box, slipped and fell on the grass, and ended up with her thonged bottom exposed when her robe flew up over her head. Unfortunately for her, as she lay in total mortification, the newspaper guy chose that moment to drive around the corner. She still doesn’t know for sure if he spied her in all her glory or not. If he did, he showed remarkable control by calmly pulling up and handing the paper to her as she lay sprawled on the ground, without so much as a tiny, little smirk.
I guess we are the perfect couple.
My incident started me thinking though. Were there any clues in the past that would indicate that I had exhibitionist tendencies?
Well, maybe so, now that I think about it. As a little kid, running around like a jaybird didn’t bother me a bit. Of course, you had to be careful when the dog or cat was around, but that is just common sense. Experienced flashers have always known that one.
When I got older I was no stranger to skinny-dipping, but you better believe I was picky about who might be watching. A guy doesn’t want any embarrassing cold-water stories going around, it was always easy enough to get talked about as it was.
I just remembered that I have had a recurring dream ever since I was little that always has me getting locked out of the house without any clothes on. It is quite a desperate feeling too, running around hiding behind bushes, looking for a dog dish or something to cover up with. Once I grabbed a big leaf to shield myself, not realizing that it was poison ivy. I woke up scratching furiously, and even the dogs were impressed. Always eager to help, they all joined in for a good scratch fest.
I doubt that my career as a flasher is over, for the simple reason that fate can’t be defeated, and fate quite often has indignity in store for me. Besides that, it runs in the family. My Dad reportedly flashed the staff at the Restorium quite often. Accidentally, of course.
Oh well, I’ll get over it.
I don’t know if those three workers will though.

Fists for Father’s Day

I didn’t have a Dad’s Day thing to share, but to honor my Dad I picked this 2013 story about fisticuffs. Up until the day he died at 93 he would still close his fist and shake it when talking about someone he didn’t like and say, “Just one punch, that’s all I need!”
He never realized that he was almost too weak to lift his arm, much less clout somebody with his fist. That didn’t matter though, in his mind he just knew he could and it gave him great satisfaction to know it. We never discouraged him, and the famous twinkle in his eye was always a pleasure to see. It was the same gleam he got when he saw a pretty girl and all of the nurses in the nursing home where he spent his last years remember it well. As far as that goes, many women he hadn’t seen in years still comment on that sparkle to me.
Dad brought a lot of joy to many people’s hearts and liked nothing better than a good laugh. Much of my twisted sense of humor came from him, and I never forget that.
His clenched fist still brings a smile to my face too.
Thanks for the memories Dad. I still love you.

Some fists no better than paws

As is so often the way, especially in my drivel, cavemen are the first to do most things. Fisticuffs is my choice to abuse this week, and I am totally sure that the first knockout in history occurred when a hairy fisted cave brute KO’d a want-to-be foe.
Fists are the one weapon that are always close to hand, so to speak. A hard head is not kind to fists, but that rarely makes a difference when anger or self-defense modes kick in.
The Egyptians had some sort of hand-to-hand bouts for entertainment around 4000 BC, with the combatants wearing strips of leather around their hands. Pretty civilized of them compared to the Greeks around 900 BC, for it was not to the death. They hated wasting manpower that could be used for pyramid building and wars, I guess.
The Greeks made their warriors sit on flat stones facing each other, wearing the same type of leather thongs (not skimpy underwear!) on their fists, but their fights were to the death. They were also slow to die, so spikes were sewn into the thongs to speed things up. It did so considerably, and also fueled the bloodlust of the crowd, pleasing everybody but the corpse. Slaves were a dime a dozen so it made no difference to the bloodthirsty Greeks.
As they did in so many other things, the Romans followed suit. Had it been a flatulence battle to the death, they would have copied that too.
The London Prize Ring Rules took over bare-knuckle pugilism around 1719, and they stipulated that a round lasted until one fighter was knocked down, and he then got a 30 second break between rounds. The fight would not be considered over until a fighter could not get up, or one of them threw in the towel.
The longest fight, in Australia in 1855, lasted 6 hours and 15 minutes, when one boxer finally threw in the towel in the 17th round. While the time is impressive, it pales next to the last sanctioned bare-knuckle fight in 1889, after which the Marquess of Queensbury Rules added gloves and three-minute rounds with one-minute breaks.
The fight in 1889 involved famous fighter and drunkard John L. Sullivan, and the bout took 75 rounds to finish, in about two and a half hours. Just imagine 75 knockdowns in the Arizona heat. No wonder boxers were the rock stars of the day.
Sullivan was reputed to have made over a million bucks in his career, blowing every cent of it. No wonder he was a drunk, you would need some kind of painkiller to maintain after 75 round fights.
A true Ironman, bare-knuckle fighter Jem Mace, had the longest pro boxing career in history, more than 35 years. He retired in his 60’s but fought an exhibition in 1909 at 79 years old.
My pugilistic talents could best be described as pathetic. In the 4th Grade I was made Captain of the Patrols, due more to my accomplished rumpkissing of the teachers than my skill at putting a stop to altercations and the like.
One day I went up to the toughest kid in the class and tried to throw my weight around to put an end to a small skirmish. A firm knee to the crotch affirmed what I wasn’t sure of at the time, but never forgot again. Do not throw your weight around when you are the smallest kid in your class.
The memory of the big circle of kids standing around me pointing as I lay on the ground holding myself is not pleasant, nor likely to be forgotten. A recent event brought it back to mind.
I got home from work, went through the gate and knelt down to let my four yapping dogs greet me. Andy, the only male, stood up on his back feet and tapped me on the chest.
To my great surprise and indignity I fell over backwards, hitting and sliding down the cyclone fence to the ground. After an eight count and a squeal from Joy, who missed all but the sight of me on the ground and thought I had a heart attack, I assessed the damage.
My nice shirt was a ripped up waste, I had a painful gouge on my shoulder blade and I was thoroughly disgusted.
Who would ever think a 12-pound dog would pack a punch like that?