Prune Crisis and Tofu Dreams


Is it really...?

Can it be...?

Yup, that's explodingplum in your feed reader, my friends! The always-purple, ever-satiric Queen of the Fruits (I just inaugurated myself) is back from an epic nine-week quest to identify and overthrow the prune production industry. I can't go into details as I'm convinced Sun-Maid has bugged my every move, but suffice it to say, a national crisis of incomprehensible magnitude--the Jericho of produce, if you will--was narrowly averted.

So, where did I leave off?

::Dim lights::

Previously on explodingplum...

Plum finds out she is a twin...but not just any twin. Behold the malignant doppleganger who neglects to write or photograph, but merely verbalizes her gustatory experiences instead of immortalizing them in print for all to share. Will she shed her peel of posting failure? Or will her discolored bruises only make her stronger?

::End scene.::

During the aforementioned mission to prevent the dessication of my brethren, I had the pleasure of meeting and joining a group of Foodbuzz Featured Publishers in Seattle for dinner. (In case you didn't know, superplums don't work weekends, as all battle ceases for harvest. For further information, see Fruit At War: A Retrospective.) Trying (and failing) to contain my unrequited delight when confronted with the menu option of tofu satay at Wild Ginger, The Pink Hobart inquired as to the details of my dietary preferences. And while I am not a vegetarian, I do suppose it is quite logical to make that conclusion given my overwhelming favor (some say obsession) of bean curd over meat.

And then yesterday, after a lovely lunch visit with Rachel of Cupcakes Take the Cake, I once again went on a soy soliloquy during our stroll on the Embarcadero, prompting yet more questions regarding my non-existent vegetarianism. Curious, I thought. Is it a distinctly American cultural phenomenon that a meat-lover would not normally (or ever) eat tofu for tofu sake? Is the typical view that meat-lovers and tofu addicts are mutually exclusive, that in no way one can like, stand, or dare I say become the other? No peaceful coexistence?? No happy curd and carcass reunions?!?!

Pa-shaw. I can have my curd and bacon and eat them, too. Watch me.

So my new mission, should I choose to accept it (and do I not always?), is to undertake a challenge of grand proportions to scan every corner of the Bay Area in search of the perfect tofu. North Bay, East Bay, South Bay, and beyond--no eatery is immune. There are untold flavors, textures, and combinations just waiting to be absorbed by your taste buds.

So to you, my dear readers, absorb! Absorb, I say!

And to the naysaying carnivores among you, I beg you to give soy a chance. Yes, health benefits abound, but that's not the point, or at least the angle I'm going for, anyway. The point is that tofu is magically delicious...and then some.

With that, I shall be compiling an itinerary in the next week or so to include tofu vendors far and wide. Suggestions and recommendations are welcome. (Actually, at this completely and utterly nascent stage, they're also pretty necessary.)

In closing, I leave you with one of my finest literary works to date, entitled Ode to Tofu. Take notes, Shiki.

Delightful doufu
Firm, tender, soft, silky smooth
God bless thee, bean curd

Plum out.


My Shameful Purple Secret

What I am about to tell you makes me feel a little dirty.

I feel like I have committed a faux pas to top all faux pas, and have spit on the sanctity that is food blogging.

What would you say if I told you that this blog was only born out of a desire to glorify an anecdote? What if I said that the whole blogging aspect was an afterthought at best, that the desire to immortalize an inside joke was the real catalyst for my quasi-authorial pursuits? What would you do if I said that the conception of explodingplum can be attributed solely to being under the influence of--gasp--chocolate souffle and sugar-dusted beignets???

I know, I'm a fraud!!!

I hazardously jumped in without a plan, using the tactic of peer-pressure rationalization to justify doing like everyone else. But at least they all have plans, motives, dreams. They seek to share, inspire, and instill confidence in burgeoning gourmands everywhere with the notion that yes, if you can follow a recipe, you too can have an end product that will mesmerize and delight the harshest of critics!

But me? I'm just a pyro who likes exploding fruit. And yes, I really am as self-serving as I appear. And just as mature, I might add. I don't possess the blueprint for the perfect ratatouille. Nor do I spend hours pining over my food pictures, enhancing the contrast and utilizing the best lens to convey such natural beauty to my readers.

Oh my GOD, I don't even take food pictures!!!

I need a moment.

Okay. If you still happen to be reading and have somehow not forever damned me to the Mario Batali Anti-Blogroll (consider yourself lucky if you don't know), I can only assume that I am forgiven.

Now, in the midst of all this eggsistential drama (I might be repentant, but I can still crack a joke...HA, DOUBLE ZING!), you are probably still wondering what on earth I'm talking about. Let's start at the beginning.

I was recently made aware of the fact that I am a twin. I can't say I'm shocked. Looking back, the signs were always there--sharing food, long walks to Destijl, Ferry Building excursions--it was obvious to anyone. And in the midst of all this meal swapping, I would serve as the markedly less demure ying to her refined yang. So, if logic dictates that twins come as a pair, and she is the halo-bearing wunderfoodie, then that must mean...

Yup. I'm the other one.

The twin to whom I am referring is none other than the Blogger Formerly Known as Miniplum, now classified by the alias eatingplum, who possesses, and I quote, a "penchant for cute things," including but not limited to "cute pencils, cute pencil cases, and cute boys." So, serving as both a complete antithesis of the aforementioned qualities (except maybe for shoes) and as an exceptionally stuffed companion to the miniplum on a post-luncheon Embarcadero stroll, explodingplum was born.

And while I may have haphazardly stumbled into this e-universe, I vow to amend my ways. I do solemnly swear to never take the name of Emeril in vain. I will try one new food each week. I will not be a produce sadist.

Well, two out of three ain't bad.


Book Review: Candyfreak by Steve Almond

"The answer is that we don't choose our freaks, they choose us."

Steve Almond's opening line to his sugar-laden, quasi-biographical work Candyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America resonates quite a bit with me. Being a chick and all, I suppose it's genetically impossible for me to be impervious to chocolate. And while I am pretty sure there is a little cacao monster lurking inside all of us, my studies in neuroscience make me question whether my own blood-brain barrier really is impenetrable to glucose. Quite simply, the powers that be endowed me with the freak of a sweet tooth.

For many years I thought I was alone, that I was the only one who saw a peanut butter cup as an ethereal, otherworldly escape from the trials and tribulations of childhood and teenagerdom. But after reading his own memoirs and investigative reporting on the births and deaths of American candy companies over the decades, I realize that I'm on the tame side.

Almond's joy lies not only in sampling the wide assortment of regional delights that few of us have had the privilege of savoring, but also relating the histories of the small, family-owned candy companies throughout America. And while it is impossible to experience many of the era-specific delicacies firsthand, Almond nonetheless makes it his raison d'etre to imbue us with as much sugar awareness as possible. While my contemporaries have grown up and become familiar with the "Big Three"--Hershey, Nestle, and Mars--very few have sampled, or are even aware of the existence of, a Twin Bing, Idaho Spud, Goo Goo Cluster, or a Valomilk. With a verve rivaling that of the green M&M, Almond is resolute to capture the attention of the once uninterested and convert the previously fascinated to, for lack of a better word, freaks.

The book's gems include not only the author's wit and characteristic humor oozing with sarcasm, but also a broad smattering of candy trivia from beginning to end. For instance, did you know the Necco wafer was created in 1847, and became a staple of Union soldiers who fought in the Civil War? Were you aware of the massive candy bar boom post-WWI, whose products were inextricably tied to popular figures of the time? The Lindy and Winning Lindy bars both were born from Charles Lindbergh, while Amos N Andy, Little Orphan Annie, and Babe Ruth all had their own confections as well. And--brace yourself--did you know that the Baby Ruth was not in fact named after the superstar slugger, but after President Grover Cleveland's daughter? No aspect of popular culture was unexplored, as evidenced by the 18th Amendment Bar manufactured during prohibition by the Marvel Company of Chicago, boasting a "Pre-War Flavor" with a bottle of rum on the label.

It is only through Almond's gift of freak that such an effective cross-generational and interregional examination of America's favorite comestible can be accomplished. His obsessive passion for candy (or perhaps dangerously elevated insulin level?) prompts him to leave no region, factory, or product unexplored, and manages to convince us all that in the end, these confections are not only molecular amalgamations of sugar, corn syrup, and cocoa powder, but tangible evidence linking us to other times, places, and generations.

I will close with one of many sidestitch-inducing lines in the book, but perhaps my personal favorite:

"Every now and then, I'll run into someone who claims not to like chocolate, and while we live in a country where everyone has the right to eat what they want, I want to say for the record that I don't trust these people, that I think something is wrong with them, and that they're probably--and this must be said--total duds in bed."

So, as you agonize whether you'll be bubbling in Clinton or Obama come next November, I urge you to not only consider the potential effects of your choice on the future of our children, national deficits, and foreign policy, but ask yourself who--if left to their own devices without the puppeteering of political aides--would choose the Jolly Rancher.

And then vote for the other one.


Opening Explosion

Drumroll, please.

Yes, this is the long-awaited first post all of you (and at this moment that includes only myself) have been waiting for. I am embarking on a new and novel undertaking, chronicling all things food.

Oh wait, you mean it's been done?

By how many???

Fine. I guess now I will just have to make it THAT much more avant-garde and cutting edge. I vow to go where no food blog has gone before.

And to start, behold the namesake of my latest electronic offspring. What an unrefined, indelicate name, you say. Do I really want to be labeled as the notorious food un-snob--the one who paradoxically weakens at the prospect of exquisite produce or a perfectly-cooked egg, but who fantasizes about bringing chaos to a kitchen with every mise impeccably en place and eating the occasional bowl of Cheerios for dinner?

Yes, yes, and yes!

So why explodingplum? I guess I could detail the many potential etymologies of this gem, but in the hopes of actually growing and not diminishing my current readership of one (gosh, could I actually turn myself away?), I will not. Suffice it to say that it combines the legends of medieval folklore with the reputations of contemporary Foodbuzz luncheons (with a tad more emphasis on the latter). In short, explodingplum will be a whirlwind of glorious, but hopefully simultaneously entertaining, contradictions. It will revere and satirize, worship and mock, adulate and deride. And look darn good doing it, too, I might add.

With that, I invite you to a viewing of quite possibly the most ingenious video on all of YouTube. Atonement, eat your heart out.