Saturday, July 15, 2017

Writing News--An Anthology Update

     I recently learned that one of my stories was accepted for an upcoming horror anthology.  The (tentative) title for this anthology is "Hidden Animals:  A Collection of Cryptids."  The publisher is Dragon's Roost Press, whose website can be found at: .  This is a charity anthology, with some of the proceeds going to the Last Day Dog Rescue, out of Michigan.  Michael Cieslak is the Dragon's Roost Press's owner and editor.  This book is scheduled to be published in winter of 2017.
     "Cryptids" refers to legendary and folkloric animals, ala Bigfoot and the Jersey Devil.  This anthology is set up so that each story is about one of these animals, with no repeats.  It's also focused on some more obscure, lesser-known beasties.  Here's a list of some of the creatures featured in the book:

1) Abominable Snowman
2) Ozark Howler
3) Man Eating Tree
4) Wendigo
5) Mermaid
6) Mongolian Death Worm
7) Hellhound
8) Jorogumo
9) Kelpie
10) Kraken
11) Lake Monster
12) Mapinguari
13) Mokele-Mbembe/ Ninki-Nanka
14) Old Yellow Top
15) Thunderbird
16) Plesiosaur
17) Triceratops
18) Squonk
      (Okay, a couple of these were real dinosaurs, but those have been extinct for millions of years, so you get the idea.)
      The following is a list of the authors and titles that have been accepted, so far.  I say so far, because this anthology is open to submissions until August 31, 2017, or until it is filled.  So for any writers out there, you might want to check out the guidelines on Dragon's Roost Press's website.  They pay 3 cents per word (possibly more, depending on a crowdfunding campaign), plus copies.  I wouldn't wait, either, since it seems like there are probably only a couple of possible slots left.  Anyway, here's the list of my fellow authors and their stories, in no particular order:

1) "Night Quarry" by Paul Tanner
2) "Picnicing With Old Yellow Top" by Adam Millard
3) "Sky Demon" by Jeff Brigham
4) "A Cruelty That Cuts Both Ways" by Aimee Ogden
5) "Lifeboat" by Danielle Warnick
6) "An Unusual Pet" by Matt Hayward
7) " An Exchange of Fear" by Lynn Rushlau
8) "From a Laptop in the Jungle" by Erik Goldsmith
9) "Hellhound" by Sarah Doebereiner
10) "Iceheart" by Sarah Haus
11) "Moonlight Forest" by Soumya Sundar Mukherjee
12) "O Christmas Tree" by Gregory L. Norris
13) "Please Don't Feed the Howler" by Frances Pauli
14) "Spider" by A. Collingwood
15) "The Anna Doria" by Ellen Denton
16) "The Ghost Tree" by Sharon Diana King
17) "Two Yurts" by Dale L.Sproule
18) "Wake" by Jennie Brass
19) "You Will Be Laid Low Even at the Sight of Him" by Kevin Wetmore

     My story is "The Keystone State" about the squonk.  As usual, I'll provide more information as I receive it, such as the cover image, publication date, etc.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Sarsaparilla

     Like a lot of people, my introduction to sarsaparilla was various American Western movies and television programs.  Basically, if a character ordered this (soft) drink instead of whiskey, or at least another kind of alcoholic beverage, then they were probably (soft) cowards.  Or, to use a vulgar term, any guy who drank sarsaparilla was probably a pussy.
     As it turns out, tracing the history and details of this drink is a little confusing.  It was undeniably popular in the 19th century, especially in the U.S., or in places that would eventually become U.S. states.  It was imbibed partly as a soft drink, and partly as a type of patent medicine.  Sarsaparilla was thought to be good for treating blood and skin ailments.  And, also, perhaps ironically given its reputation, it was believed to help combat venereal infections.  (Almost all of these patent medicines were useless, the "snake oil" concoctions of the day.)
     Now we get to the issue of what sarsaparilla really is.  The traditional drink was made from birch oil and the dried bark of the sassafras tree.  (The latter was also a main flavoring agent of root beer.)  However, over the years what constituted the drink changed greatly.  In 1960 the FDA in the U.S. banned the use of sassafras, since evidence suggests that it may be a carcinogen.  (It's also used, illegally, of course, in the production of the drugs MDA and MDMA.)  So modern versions of the drink use something else.  Specifically, a relative of the lily plant, the sarsaparilla vine.  So although the name didn't change, the actual main ingredient did change, and made the drink's name more botanically accurate decades after its invention.  And although it's not as popular as in its 19th century heyday, the new version of the beverage is consumed around the world, most notably in the U.S., the U.K., Australia, Taiwan, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
    The sarsaparilla I had was made by Orca Beverage Soda Works, out of Mukilteo, Washington.  This is a company which specializes in retro soft drinks.  They've reintroduced old classics such as Goody, Hippo Size, Dragon Trail, Red Arrow, Bedford's, Dad's, et. al.  Even Lemmy, which doesn't actually have anything to do with the late, lamented Motorhead frontman.  Orca was founded in the 1980's by Mike Bourgeois, whose name makes him sound like a member of some 1980's political punk band.  The company also manufactures Krazy Kritters (a vitamin drink for kids which comes in fun animal-shaped containers), and, bizarrely, old timey, soft drink-themed thermometers.  I've already unknowingly raved about one of their products, the awesome diet ginger beer called Cock 'n Bull (see May 20, 2017 post).
     Anyway, the drink I had was called Earp's, to complete the Western theme, I suppose.  A rendition of, presumably, Wyatt Earp was on the label.  I rechecked the ingredient list, and saw no sign that they utilized the taboo sassafras bark flavoring.  So this is the modern, inauthentic-to-some version.  It was a dark brown color, and smelled like birch beer.  The taste was also like a mild birch beer, or a root beer.  These two aren't my favorite soft drink flavor, but the Earp's sarsaparilla was pretty good.  Not great like the Cock 'n Bull ginger beer, but solid.  If you enjoy birch/root beers you'll probably like this one, too.  Although I guess if you do drink it, in certain circles you'll be running the risk of having your friends mock you and call you a "wuss" or the like.  It would be interesting to compare this version of the drink with "real" sassafras bark-flavored sarsaparilla, but I guess I'll have to break the law or travel to another country to attempt this.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Finnish Licorice

     As far as I can recall, I haven't discussed a purely Finnish food or drink since my post on sahti beer way back on July 30,2012.  But, as you'll see, I had a different reaction to this licorice than I did about their distinctive kind of beer.
     The type of licorice I bought was Panda, both the original regular flavor and the raspberry flavor.  Panda was founded in 1920 by the SOK company, or Suomen Osuuskauppojen Keskuskunta if "you're not into the whole brevity thing," to quote The Dude in "The Big Lebowski."  However, in 2005 SOK was bought by Felix Abba, which in turn is part of the Orkla Group.  The Orkla Group is immense, and essentially is in the business of everything.  Aside from food products, they're involved in chemicals, aluminum, power plants, banking, and real estate, to name just a few.  I would give more info about Panda, or SOK in general, but the Panda website was extremely terse.  I can tell you that aside from the sorts that I had, they make a mint filled kind, licorice in bar and bear forms, and licorice creams.
     Both kinds I bought were the individual stick licorice--a 1.25 ounce (32 gram) serving.  Each was 4.5 inches (about 11.5 cm.) long and .75 inch (about 2 cm.) wide.  The original kind was black, and the raspberry was red.  I enjoyed both kinds quite a bit.  The original was very good--spicy and tangy.  The raspberry one was a little bit sweeter, but of the same high quality taste.  Either foreign licorice is way better than the American kinds I grew up with (Twizzlers and the like), or I'm starting to get a taste for it.  I was dazzled by the Australian licorice (see January 20, 2017 post) and the Finnish Panda kinds were also excellent.  (I'd have to have both in one sitting to judge which one is the very best.)  So I heartily recommend Panda licorice, and will definitely buy these flavors again when I can, and will seek out the other flavors, too.
     And just to thicken this post out a little, I'll close with some fun facts about Finland.  I got these from a casual internet search, so if there are any mistakes let me know, and I'll correct them.  Anyway, the Finns are reportedly the biggest coffee drinkers in the world, averaging 12 kg. per person annually.  They also drink the most milk, averaging just under a liter a day.  They were the last European region to be Christianized, in the 12th century.  A 2012 international commission named them the world's least corrupt and most democratic nation.  They have two interesting traffic rules.  Drivers must keep their headlights on at all times while in motion, even during bright sunny days.  And the fines for speeding tickets are based on the severity of the offense, and the driver's personal income, meaning a rich speeder will pay more than a poor one.
     Several sites claimed that Finland has the most lakes of any country in the world, but there's more to this.  They do have the most officially designated ones, that are over 500 meters square, with 187,888.  However, if smaller, and unofficially designated ones are counted, Canada is tops with over 2,000,000.  Finland does appear to have the most islands, though, with 179, 584.  Famous Finns in the entertainment fields include the metal band Hanoi Rocks (1979-85, 2001-2009) and film director Renny Harlin.  Harlin is known for "A Nightmare on Elm Street 4" (1988), "Die Hard 2" (1990), "Cutthroat Island" (1995), "Deep Blue Sea" (1999), "Exorcist:  The Beginning" (2004), and "The Legend of Hercules" (2014), among others.  (Some of these movies are notorious box office and critical bombs, but he has made over a dozen films in his long career, and some of these have been quite successful.)

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--An Albino-ish Fruit, and Another Grand Experiment

     While shopping for various berries recently, I saw something new.  They were called "sunrise raspberries."  Their price was about the same as their red cousins, or about $2.50 for a dry pint (about 550 grams).
     Raspberries are a very common fruit across the world.  They are grown pretty much anywhere that has a temperate climate.  Russia, Poland, the U.S., Serbia, and Mexico are the biggest producers.  Perhaps because of this ubiquitousness, the websites I checked weren't entirely sure where the first raspberries were grown.  Turkey is one theory, but evidently parts of North America may have been a birthplace, too, at least for some strains.  Raspberries come in four basic colors--red, black, purple, and yellow.  The latter, usually called golden raspberries, are a naturally occurring variant of the red and black kinds that lack pigment due to a recessive gene.  So while they're not technically "albino," as the term means in animals and humans, the effect is akin to it, at least visually.  The ones I got, "sunrise" or "sunshine" raspberries, are then a hybrid of these golden raspberries and the red ones.  Other raspberry hybrids include the boysenberry and the loganberry (see March 30, 2013 post for more information).  Also, the sunrise/sunshine raspberries were trademarked in 2009, so bear that in mind if you want to start growing and marketing them, lest you get sued.  Pick some other name, such as "champagne raspberries," or "just plain yellowish raspberries."
     I found some of the statements I read about sunrise/sunshine raspberries to be interesting.  One website claimed that these are sweeter, and less tart than red raspberries, and their taste has peach and apricot notes.  The same site claimed they had, "a stunning and unique jewel like appearance."  But another site said that, "despite appearances, they resemble red or black raspberries in flavor."
     There have been several occasions when I've wondered whether I could tell a particular food or beverage apart from other similar ones, such as vegetarian "moctopus" from actual, real octopus.  Back in my post about Mexican soft drinks (see the August 18, 2013 entry), I tested one of these.  I decided to try this again.  Basically, I had someone hand me 10 raspberries, one at a time, which I took and ate without looking at it.  I then wrote down my guess on whether it was a sunrise raspberry or a red one.  At least 2 or 3 of each kind had to be offered, but in a random order.  Then I compared my guesses to the actual list.  This is clearly not a proper clinical, double blind experiment, but I think it is sufficient for a casual observation on a fun little blog post.  Anyway, I guessed correctly 6 out of 10 times, or 60%.  Or about 50-50, for this very small sample size.  Therefore, my results suggest that I don't agree with the website's claim that the two kinds have very distinctive flavors.  Also, and this is even more subjective, but I don't find the sunrise raspberry to have a pleasing appearance.  To me they look pale and sickly, with their pinkish--yellow hue.  They remind me of the character "Gollum" from the "Hobbit/Lord of the Rings" movies, or those poor fish whose ancestors went into cave lakes or rivers and are now colorless and blind.
     Not to say that the sunrise raspberries are bad.  I find red raspberries okay--they're not my favorite kind of berry, but they're not gross or anything.  So, in conclusion, if you like red raspberries you'll probably also enjoy their paler, yellowish cousins. Maybe those with more sophisticated palates will even pick up on the alleged peach and apricot overtones in them.  I don't know if the black, purple, or pure golden raspberries have their distinctive tastes in their own right--I'll have to see if I can acquire and try them.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--An Austrian Dessert and Soft Drink

     Two more finds from Wegman's grocery for this week.  It is truly the supermarket that keeps on giving.
     After confirming it was made in Austria, I snapped Mezzo Mix right up.  But then when I investigated a little more closely, I realized it was actually a Coca-Cola product.  Mezzo Mix is only made and marketed in Europe though--mostly Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, although evidently a little bit in Spain and Sweden, too.  Mezzo Mix is a relatively recent development, dating back to 1973.  It's basically Coke with orange juice, and orange flavor.  A version with lemon used to be sold, but then it was discontinued.  A lemon/Coke hybrid was then reintroduced in 2003.  In February, around Valentine's Day, a raspberry "berry love" Mezzo Mix is produced, since 2013.  The slogan for the orange Mezzo Mix flavor is, "Cola kusst orange," or "Cola kisses orange" in German.
     Conversely, the manufacturer for the dessert I ate, Manner, is an Austrian company, and is somewhat old, dating back to 1890.  Although it's become more cosmopolitan--in 2012 Manner products were sold in over 50 countries around the world, including the U.S., Russia, the Middle East, and several countries in North Africa.  The company is known for its distinctive pink colored packaging, and founder Josef Manner's stated vision of "chocolate for everyone!".  Manner sells mostly what we Americans refer to as "cookies," (aka "biscuits" in some areas).  Flavors include the flagship hazelnut, vanilla, whole grain, hazelnut/chocolate, and bite-sized versions of the same.
     The Mezzo Mix flavor I had was the orange.  It came in an average 330 ml. (11.15 ounces) can, which was both colored orange and had a drawing of the fruit on it.  And it was disappointingly similar to regular Coke.  I didn't detect much of an orange flavor.  There's only 1.5% orange juice in it, so I guess that's the main reason.  I find Coke okay--neither great nor terrible, and I regarded the Mezzo Mix to be about the same.  But clearly I was hoping for something more distinctive.
     The Manner cookies I tried were the original hazelnut cream filled wafers.  They broke down in small (about 5 cm./2 inch by 1.5 cm./.5 inch) pieces.  Each piece consisted of four layers of the brown hazelnut cream encased by five layers of yellowish brown wafer slices.  The outer yellowish brown layers had a cross hatch design on them.  They reminded me of other wafer-type cookies I've had over the years, including the fruity Brazilian ones (see May 25, 2016 post).  But the hazelnut cream filling was new, and very pleasant.  They were quite solid, and tasty.  So of the two Austrian products I definitely prefer the Manner wafers, mostly because they had a distinct, and detectable flavor.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Hibiscus

     Recently I was in a Central New Jersey Shop Rite grocery, and beheld something a bit odd in the fruit section--dried, edible flowers.  I'd heard of hibiscus as a tea flavoring, but I wasn't aware that the flowers themselves were edible, or at least palatable.  Needless to say, I snapped them up and gave them a try.
     Hibiscus, which includes dozens of species and subspecies, is a plant that lives in warm or hot areas all around the globe.  This plant is best known for its large, showy flowers, which can be up to 18 cm. (about 7 inches) in diameter, and whose colors range from white, purple, yellow, orange, and pink.  Their original home isn't conclusively known, but probably candidates for their various ancestor species include Madagascar, Fiji, Hawaii, Mauritius, India, and China.  They're a popular choice for gardens, because of their pretty flowers, and because these flowers help attract bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies.  As I mentioned earlier, they're a common flavoring for both hot and cold teas, in the Caribbean, Central and South America, Africa, Europe, and Thailand.  More rarely, in the Philippines people sometimes use them as a souring agent for soups and vegetables.  The Chinese enjoy their leaves as a cooked dish similar to spinach, and others eat their raw leaves in salads.  And, in Mexico the dried flowers are considered a delicacy.
     As far as the plant's medical benefits or detriments, there's a lot of disagreement.  Hibiscus is thought to have health benefits in traditional Chinese folk medicine.  Studies have suggested that it may lower blood pressure, and perhaps cholesterol.  On the negative side, hibiscus has been proven to have adverse effects on pregnant rats.  While a corresponding effect hasn't been proven in humans, doctors still advise pregnant or breastfeeding women  to avoid hibiscus to be on the safe side.  It also reacts badly with some drugs, such as chloroquine and acetaminophen.  So take this under advisement before consuming it.
    The hibiscus I got was made by the Nutty & Fruity company out of California.  Unlike many of the companies I discuss on this blog, their website was sparse and not very helpful.  It was basically a section on which supermarkets stock their products, a contact page, and little else.  They don't even have a good product list--it just has a series of images that flashed by very quickly.  So I can't include any interesting or funny tidbits about the company's history or anything.  Other food shopping websites included their other offered products, and not surprisingly, their output consists of dried fruits (kiwi, strawberry, tangerine, banana, golden berries (see June 13th, 2015 post), passion fruit, figs, etc.) or nuts (flavored almonds, cashews, peanuts, etc.).
     The container I bought was 5 ounces (141 grams) and cost about $5.  The dried flowers were a purplish-red color, and about 4 cm. (about 1.5 inches) in diameter.  Their dried petals were curled down, and resembled tentacles.  Each one reminded me of a baby octopus, or should I say pentapus, given that there were 5 "arms" per flower.  They tasted, and had a texture that was very much akin to raisins.  They were a little tart, and chewy. I like raisins okay, so I also thought the hibiscus was alright.  Not awesome, but a solid snack--I had no trouble finishing up the package, and would consider buying these again.  I was amused by something on on the outside label, though.  It proudly proclaimed that there's "no flavors added," but then the ingredient lists mentions "cane sugar."  So a bit of a discrepancy there!  Their claims to be gluten, GMO, and fat free are more legit, it seems.  All in all, then, unless you hate raisins, I would recommend dried hibiscus flowers to eat.  Unless you're pregnant, or are on certain medications, etc.
     Finally, in traditional Hawaiian and Tahitian culture, hibiscus flowers were reportedly used by women as a social signal.  A flower behind her left ear meant the woman was married, or in a relationship,  One behind her right ear meant she was available.  I don't know what a flower behind both ears indicated, or if a flower awkwardly jammed up one or both nostrils meant anything.


Saturday, June 3, 2017

NBA Trivia

     With the National Basketball Association (NBA) finals underway, I thought it might be appropriate to discuss some of this league's trivia.  Bear in mind that I'm an extremely casual NBA fan--I've done my best to confirm all of this, but it's possible I've overlooked some things.  As usual, if any mistakes are noticed, I'd appreciate any readers bringing these to my attention, and I'll fix them.  Most of these will be bits about the playoffs, or even the finals.

1) Since the NBA went to its 16 team playoff format for the 1983-84 season, only one #8 seed has made it to the finals--the 1998-99 New York Knicks (who lost to the San Antonio Spurs).  This was an unusual season, though, shortened significantly from a labor dispute.

2) Three teams with losing regular season records made it to the finals.  These were the 1956-57 St. Louis Hawks (regular season record of 34-38), the 1958-59 Minneapolis Lakers (33-39), and the 1980-81 Houston Rockets (40-42).  All of these teams lost in the finals, although the Hawks did take the Boston Celtics to 7 games.

3) The lowest seeded team to win the NBA title was the 1994-95 Houston Rockets, versus the Orlando Magic.  As a #6 seed, the Rockets didn't have the home court advantage in any of the playoff series that year.

4) The team with the worst record to make the playoffs was the 1952-53 Baltimore Bullets, who finished a putrid 16-54 (.229 winning percentage).  How was this possible, you might ask?  Back in those early NBA days, the top four teams in each 5 team division qualified for the playoffs, meaning only 2 of the total 10 teams didn't qualify for the postseason.  And to think people now complain that the regular season doesn't mean that much, that too many teams make the playoffs!

5) The team who has won the most NBA titles is the Boston Celtics, with 17.  The Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers are a close second with 16 titles.  These two are also the top two in total finals appearances, although it's flipped.  The Lakers are first with 31 appearances (record of 16-15), while the Celtics have 21, with a record of 17-4.

6) The Celtics were the most dominant U.S. major pro sports league team ever, winning an incredible 8 consecutive titles between 1959-66 (and 11 in 13 years!).  For comparison, the MLB record is 5 in a row, for the 1949-53 New York Yankees, and the NHL record is 5 consecutive, for the 1956-60 Montreal Canadians.  For college teams, the UCLA Bruins won 7 in a row from 1967-73 (and 10 in 12 years) in men's basketball, and the North Carolina Tar Heels women's soccer team won 9 national titles in a row from 1986-94.

7) Moving in the opposite way, 7 current teams have never even made it to the finals, much less won one.  These are the Buffalo Braves/San Diego and Los Angeles Clippers (around since 1970), the Denver Nuggets (since 1976), the Charlotte Hornets/Bobcats (since 1988), the Minnesota Timberwolves  (since 1989), the Vancouver/Memphis Grizzlies (since 1995), the Toronto Raptors (also 1995), and the New Orleans/Oklahoma Hornets/New Orleans Pelicans (since 2002).

8) Now let's list the individual players who won the most NBA titles.
     11  Bill Russell, center, with those dominant late 50's/60's Boston Celtics.
     10  Sam Jones, guard, also with those Celtics.
      8 (tie)  Tom Heinsohn, forward/center, same Celtics.
      8    K.C. Jones, guard, Celtics.
      8  John Havlicek, forward/guard, Celtics.
      7 (tie) Jim Loscutoff, forward, Celtics (played in 6 ).
      7  Frank Ramsey, forward/guard, Celtics.
      7 Robert Horry, forward, with the Houston Rockets (2), Los Angeles Lakers (3), and San Antonio
         Spurs (2).
      6  Bob Cousy, guard, with those same Celtics.
      6  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, center with the Milwaukee Bucks (1), and Los Angeles Lakers (5).
      6 Michael Jordan, guard, all with the Chicago Bulls.
      6 Scottie Pippen, forward, with those same Bulls.

9) Since the 1968-69 season, the NBA has named a NBA finals Most Valuable Player (MVP).  Michael Jordan has won the most, with 6, or every Bulls title.  Four players are tied for second, with 3 MVP's.  These are Magic Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan, and Lebron James.  James, of course, is still active, and could add to his total.

10) Only one man has been named the finals MVP for a year in which his team lost the series, or the equivalent to the NFL's Chuck Howley.  This would be Jerry West, with the 1968-69 Los Angeles Lakers.

11) The record for finals futility is 8 appearances, no wins, for poor Elgin Baylor, with the Los Angles Lakers.  It gets worse--Baylor retired during the regular season in 1971-72.  That same team finally broke through and won it all a few months later.

12) Now let's go to the list of most titles won by a head coach.
     11 Phil Jackson, with the Chicago Bulls (6), and the Los Angeles Lakers (5).
      9 Red Auerbach, all with the Boston Celtics.
      5 (tie) John Kundla, all with the Minneapolis Lakers.
      5 Pat Riley, with the Los Angeles Lakers (4), and the Miami Heat (1).
      5 Gregg Popovich, all with the San Antonio Spurs.
            No other coach has more than 2.  Popovich is the only man still actively coaching.

13) I was unable to confirm this definitively, but allegedly, power forward/center Rasheed Wallace (1995-2010, 2012-13) had his 2003-4 Detroit Pistons title ring refitted for his middle finger.  Perhaps the (in)famously combative Wallace wanted to aggravate anyone who asked to see his ring.  To be fair, current center Andrew Bogut, who won a title with the 2014-15 Golden State Warriors, supposedly did the same thing.

Now let's switch from playoff/finals related trivia, into general NBA fun facts.

14) Obviously, basketball players are justifiably known for being significantly taller than most other athletes, or people in general.  But sometimes shorter guys managed to make the NBA.  The shortest ever was Muggsy Bogues, who played, at point guard, for 4 teams from 1987-2001, most notably with the Charlotte Hornets.  Bogues was only 5'3".  The next shortest was  guard Earl Boykins, who stands 5'5".  He played from 1999-2010 with 10 teams, most notably with the Denver Nuggets.

15) Conversely, the tallest NBA player ever was 7'7" Gheorghe Muresan, who played from 1993-97 with the Washington Bullets and New Jersey Nets.  Manute Bol is sometimes listed as also being 7'7", but other sources claim he was "only" 7'6 and three-quarters of an inch.  Bol played from 1985-95, most notably with the Washington Bullets and Philadelphia 76ers.

16) The record holder for most assists dished out in one game is not a great player, like John Stockton, Magic Johnson, Jason Kidd, etc., but the fairly mediocre Scott Skiles, who played from 1986-97 as a point guard.  On December 30, 1990 he had 30 assists while playing for the Orlando Magic, versus  the Denver Nuggets.

17) Similarly, the record for most steals in a game is held by two fairly pedestrian players.  Larry Kenon, a forward who played from 1972-83, had 11 in a game for the San Antonio Spurs versus the Kansas City Kings on December 26, 1976.  Kendall Gill, a shooting guard/small forward, had 11 in a game for the New Jersey Nets versus the Miami Heat on April 3, 1999.  Gill played from 1990-2005.

18) The youngest man to play in an NBA game was the recently retired center Andrew Bynum, who was 18 years, 6 days, when he suited up for the Los Angeles Lakers on November 2, 2005.

19) Small forward Charles "Bubba" Wells holds an unlikely NBA record.  He fouled out (was removed from the game after receiving 6 fouls called against him) in an incredible 3 minutes of playing time while with the Dallas Mavericks versus the Chicago Bulls on December 29, 1997.  There's a story behind this.  Bull player Dennis Rodman was notorious for being a very poor free throw shooter.  So, in an early version of the so-called "Hack-a-Shaq" strategy, Wells was instructed to intentionally foul Rodman, in the hopes that he wouldn't make many of the resulting free throws, and the Mavericks could get back in the game.  Alas, Rodman defeated this ruse by making 9 of the 12 free throws.  Center Travis Knight holds the playoff record for this, fouling out in 6 minutes of playing time while playing for the Los Angeles Lakers in a 1999 game.

20) The lowest scoring NBA game was played on November 22, 1950, between the Fort Wayne Pistons and the Minneapolis Lakers.  The Pistons prevailed 19-18!.  Games like this helped prompt the development of the shot clock for the 1954-55 season.

21) The Jones family was the Delahantys of the NBA.  Four brothers played in the NBA (or one less than the number of Delahantys in MLB).  They were:
     Caldwell Jones, a center/power forward for 17 years (1973-90) in the ABA and NBA, most
                               notably with the Philadelphia 76ers.  He was both a starter and a reserve, and
                               was once named an All Star in the ABA.
     Charles Jones, another center/power forward, who played from 1983-98 (15 seasons) most
                             notably with the Washington Bullets and Houston Rockets.  Charles was mostly
                             a reserve player, but he did win a title with the Rockets in 1994-95.
     Major Jones, a power forward for 6 years, 1979-85, with the Houston Rockets and Detroit
                           Pistons.  He was also mostly a bench player.
     Wilbert Jones, a power forward/small forward for 9 years (1969-78) in the ABA and NBA.  He
                            played on several teams, including the Miami Floridians and the Memphis Tams.
                            (The ABA had some odd, comical team names.)

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--A Singaporean Sweet

     As has happened a time or two before, while the product I'll be discussing was technically manufactured in Singapore, the overall company is actually Japanese.  Obviously I'm counting it, but I understand if purists might not agree.  The company is Meiji Seika Kaisha, Ltd., which has been around, under various titles, since 1916.  In addition to candy, this company produces milk, ice cream, infant formula, and beauty supplements.  Also what the website calls, "functional yogurt."  Which leads me to question--are there nonfunctional yogurts?  And what is the function of these yogurts?  (I'll ignore the obvious scatological answer.)  This is yet another gift from the wonderful Wegman's grocery, whose ethnic aisles never fail to reward me with things to write about.
     To me, the most interesting aspect about Singapore is that it's one of the few remaining sovereign city-states, or, a nation that essentially consists of one city and a very limited surrounding area.  Think ancient classic places like Sparta, Athens, or Carthage, or more recently, Venice and Novgorod.  The exact definition of a city-state is debatable, but most geographers list only 3 current ones.  Monaco and Vatican City are the other two.   (Qatar, Brunei, Bahrain, Malta, Kuwait, Hong Kong, Macau, and even Dubai and Abu Dabhi are considered to be almost, but not quite city-states given their slightly too large sizes, and other features.)  Singapore is also the third most densely populated nation on Earth, after Macau and Monaco, with 5.6 million people living in 719.2 square kilometers (278 square miles).  It consists of one main island and 62 islets.
     The dessert food I tried was a type of Yan Yan.  This product is quite similar to Pocky sticks, which I talked about in my September 21, 2016 post about some Thai sweets.  There's one main difference.  Pocky sticks come covered with a flavored coating, such as green tea or chocolate.  The Yan Yan container holds cracker sticks on one side, and a sweet dipping sauce on the other.  The sticks are usually plain, but occasionally they are pre-flavored, too.  The dipping sauces range from chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, mango, yogurt, and hazelnut.  I tried the strawberry kind.
     Additionally Yan Yans are noted for their "fun word" stamps on the crackers.  Most of these are associated with animals, like, "Seal loves to sun tan," "Bats only at night," Chick lucky color yellow," and, "Beetle love it."  (Rather unoriginally, they maintain that the octopus's lucky number is 8--I was hoping for something unexpected, like 12,763,003, or 5.75928.)
     The cracker sticks rods are about 10 cm. (about 4 inches) long, about the diameter of a pencil, and brownish yellow in color.  The dipping sauce was sticky and absurdly pink.  The Yan Yans were pretty good.  The rods by themselves were fairly plain and tasteless, but with the dip they were quite tasty.  Sweet, but not overly so.  I liked them a bit more than the best of the Pocky sticks.  I will try these again, and/or sample the other flavors if I can.  Finally, the label goes out of its way to mention that these Yan Yans do not contain pig fat, so these treats are appropriate for Muslim, Jewish, and vegetarian consumers to enjoy.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--A Couple of Bermudian Diet Ginger Beers

     Sometimes I encounter exotics, or disgustings, even when I'm not actively looking for them.  For the past month or so I'd been drinking probably gallons of a diet ginger beer I'd found up in Massachusetts, called, awkwardly enough, Cock n' Bull.  On a whim, I checked out the soft drink aisles in two Shop Rites near me, and came upon some other brands of this same soda.  It turns out that both (Barritts and Goslings) are Bermudian companies.  (It seems that both may bottle their products in plants in the U.S., too, but since it's under the authority of the parent companies, using their recipe, ingredients, etc., I'm counting them as Bermudian.)
     So I'll begin with a very brief background about Bermuda.  This island chain, consisting of 181 islands/islets, is in the Atlantic Ocean, about 1070 km. (665 miles) South/Southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.  The first sea captain to record his encounter with it was Juan de Bermudez of Spain, back in 1503.  Although the islands were named for him, he never actually set foot on them.  The first human settlement was from the English Virginia Company, in 1609.  It's still affiliated with England, being a British Overseas Territory.  The capital city of Bermuda is Hamilton,  The main industry of Bermuda is tourism--the island's pink sandy beaches are a particular draw.  One oddity of Bermuda, perhaps explaining why it was settled so late, relatively, is its lack of fresh water.  To this day Bermudian residences are required to collect and utilize rainwater that falls on their roofs.  The only indigenous mammals are five species of bat.  One famous Bermudian (she was born there, and left at age 5) is actress Lena Headey, probably best known for films like "The Remains of the Day" (1993), "300" (2006), "Dredd" (2012), and the HBO series, "Game of Thrones."
     The history of ginger beer itself isn't well known.  Humans have been using ginger in food and beverages for thousands of years, but the drink probably was invented in England in the mid 1700's or so.  The Barritts website claims ginger beer is derived from mead and metheglin, which are both honey-based beverages (Mead is thought to be the oldest alcoholic beverage, period).  Early versions of ginger beer were also flavored with honey.  And were strong--up until the mid 1800's they could be 11% alcohol, or as powerful as wines or super strong IPAs and barley wines.  However, in 1855 England limited ginger beers to 2% alcohol, and so it became more of a soft drink.  (This law was obviously relaxed at some point, since currently you can buy English ginger beers that are akin to regular beers in strength, about 5% alcohol.)  Additionally, ginger beer is clearly very similar to ginger ale, but it is different--among other things it's known for its more robust taste.  Aside from England and Bermuda, ginger beer is also popular in Canada, the U.S., Ireland, and South and East Africa.
     The Barritts company dates back to 1874.  William John Barritt arrived in Bermuda in 1839, from England, and spent several decades as the head jailer of the Hamilton jail.  However, his family expanded to 12 children, and his request for a raise was rejected.  In 1874 he opened up a dry goods store, which also included a bottling machine which he used to make ginger beer.  Alas, he died that same year, but his descendants have kept up the family beverage.  The website included many drink recipes which incorporate their ginger beer, many of which are (country/city name) Mules.  To describe a few, a Moscow Mule is vodka, lime juice, and ginger beer.  A Mexican Mule is tequila, lime juice, and ginger beer.  An Irish Mule is, you guessed it, Irish whiskey, and ginger beer.
     Goslings is an even older Bermudian company, dating back to 1806.  This company is known for making several versions of rum as well as their ginger beer.  Yet another alcoholic drink, the Dark 'N' Stormy, is a registered trademark of Goslings.  This drink is made with dark rum, ginger beer, and lime juice.
     As for my ratings, I found Barritts diet ginger beer and Goslings diet ginger beer to be very similar.  Both were cloudy and light yellowish in color, carbonated, and tasted about the same.  Both were gingery, but not that intense, and had a lemon-y, citrus-y flavor to them as well.  Both of which, sadly, I found somewhat disappointing.  They weren't terrible or anything, but they weren't great, either.  I don't plan on drinking more of them.  The (U.S. made) brand I mentioned earlier, Cock 'n Bull diet ginger beer, was vastly superior, in my opinion.  It had a very strong, spicy ginger bite to it, and was delicious.  Now, to be fair, we have to acknowledge the obvious point that diet soft drinks are pretty much always worse than their regular counterparts.  So I will try the regular versions for both Barritts and Goslings if/when I have the chance. (Update.  That chance for the Goslings came literally the day after I wrote this.  It was similar to the diet version, only with a stronger ginger taste, and odor.  I liked it better than the diet version, but it still wasn't great.)  Plus I've had, and enjoyed, the Dark 'N" Stormy I had a couple of years ago.  (Oops, for legal reasons I'll refer to it as a dark and stormy, or as a Dark 'N' Stormy--like equivalent, since it wasn't made with official Goslings dark rum and official Goslings ginger beer.)  But, at this point, trying what I've tried to date, I think England's Idris Fiery Ginger Beer (see June 9, 2013 post) is still the best regular ginger beer I've had, and the Cock 'n Bull is the best diet ginger beer.  And the England's Crabbies is the best alcoholic ginger beer.
     Finally, I was amused to see that a bad bottle of ginger beer led to a landmark legal case concerning negligence in the U.K. back in 1932.  In Donaghue vs. Stevenson, a Mrs. Donaghue was sickened by a snail found in a Stevenson's ginger beer, while in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland.  There's even a documentary about it.  (And for anyone worried about/perversely intrigued by this story, I couldn't find evidence that Stevenson's is still in business.  Presumably the fine settlement, legal bills, and the notoriety severely hurt their business.)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--A Few Baked Goods from the U.K.

     Today I'll be talking about two products from McVitie's, and one from Jacob's.  More specifically, a couple of types of "digestives," as they're known in the U.K,. and a kind of cracker.
     Even my usual cursory look at the manufacturers quickly became complicated, and more than a little confusing.  Jacob's dates back to either 1850 or 1851 (sources vary) in Ireland.  However, they were bought out by United Biscuits in 2004.  McVitie's began in Scotland in 1803.  Both companies are now owned by pledis (no capital "P", for some reason), along with famous food brands like Godiva Chocolates, Ulker, and DeMets Candy.  Pledis in turn is owned by Yildiz Holdings, which is a Turkish/Middle Eastern company, and is the food wing of CEEMEA.  Between all of these the overall business operates in at least 120 countries, and employs over 50,000 people.  So we're talking about an absolutely immense company.
     To me, the McVitie's offerings I got, the milk chocolate with caramel digestives, and the milk chocolate with orange digestives, would be called "cookies," or a dessert-like baked good.  But they're called "digestives" because they were thought to aid in digestion.  Which is true, by the way.  They contain baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), which does indeed help with indigestion.  Even learning this, I still find the name puzzling.  Referring to these by this term almost makes them sound like medicine, and not a pleasant culinary treat.  (What Americans call cookies are also sometimes called "biscuits" in the U.K.)  Clearly consumers in the U.K. don't care, though, as McVitie's are the most popular brand of this type of food.  They are often a major part of "tea time," sometimes dunked into the tea itself before being eaten.  A man name Alexander Grant developed digestives back in 1892.  Switching gears a bit, this product also allegedly sparked an argument between George Harrison and John Lennon of The Beatles.  Supposedly John's girlfriend Yoko Ono helped herself to some of George's McVitie's digestives during the recording sessions of the "Abbey Road" album in 1969, and Harrison protested, leading to a fight.
     The Jacob's crackers I tried were the cream crackers, first made in 1885.  There's no different names here--we Americans call this food type "crackers" as well.  (Although the Jacob's crackers also contain baking soda/sodium bicarbonate--don't know why they're not given credit for helping with digestion, too.)  I did read something controversial about the company, though.  Famous labor activist Rosie Hackett was once employed by Jacob's, and the company was one of the ones that she and her trade unions protested against, in 1911-13.  Hopefully the treatment of their workforce has improved significantly in the past century!
     But let's get to the food itself.  Both kinds of digestives were round, and a light brown color, with their company name stamped on one side, and with a milk chocolate coating on the other.  They had a diameter of about 6 cm. (or about 2.25 inches) and had a grid-like pattern under the chocolate.  The orange one had some orange flavor to it.  They were solid, but unspectacular.  Not as sweet as most American cookies.  They had a soft, chewy texture, layered like a candy bar.  The caramel kind was a bit better.  A little more sweet, and tastier.  I probably like caramel flavor more than orange in my cookies/digestives/biscuits, it appears.
     The Jacob's cream crackers were square, 7 cm (about 2.5 inches) to a side, whitish, with brown cooking marks on them.  They also had the brand name stamped on them.  I found these to be rather bland. With things on them (cheese, mustard, etc.) they were good, but they were rather boring by themselves, unadorned.  I like a typical saltine cracker better, as the greater salty taste has a little more pep.  To be fair, my mother quite enjoyed these crackers, more than me--she and my father remembered eating them when they lived in England for a year back in the early 1960's.
     Therefore, of the three baked goods, the cream crackers and the orange digestive were okay, but not dazzling.  Certainly not bad, but not especially memorable, either.   I would get the caramel digestives again, however.  And I would be willing to try other McVitie's/Jacob's/pledis products.  Given that there are over 300 brands under this company umbrella, that's quite an extensive choice!
     Also, maybe any U.K. readers can help me answer a question I have.  On the computer, some websites track your visits, and relay this info to your web browser.  We call these "cookies."  Do you call them "biscuits," or "digestives," or something else entirely?

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Japanese Rice Candy

     We're heading back East again, back to a familiar destination on my blog--Japan.  The brand of candy I'll be discussing goes by a couple of names.  The box I picked up, the export, is called Botan rice candy.  "Botan" is Japanese for "peony," the type of flower, and a picture of this is on the box, alongside one of a traditional dog-shaped toy called a inu-hariko.  However, in Japan the brand is named Bonton ame.  "Bonton" means pomelo (see February 20, 2014 post for more info about this fruit) and the candy's flavor is thought to approximate this.  The overall company which produces Botan/Bonton ame is Seiko Foods.
     The Seiko company website was informative, at times amusing, and even a little depressing at one point.  The company has gone through several name changes over the years, but a precursor of it dates all the way back to 1903.  Once in the business of producing glutinous starch syrup, they now make various candies, desserts, and frozen meats and vegetables.  The website is very detailed, even going so far as to print which banks the company employs.  On the sad side, their Company Profile page also includes a "memories of the war" section.  To end on a lighter note, I really enjoyed some of the advertising slogans for Botan/Bonton ame over the years.  In the mid 1920's (the candy was developed in 1924) their catch phrase was "the long-nosed goblin's secret recipe."  Who can argue with that?  These hideous monsters are traditionally the best candy makers, after all!  A more recent slogan boasts that the candy is "known and tasted at least once by anyone and everyone in Japan."  The cynic in me is a little suspicious that this claim is 100% accurate.  (And if it is, that is truly amazing.)
     Anyway, the rice candy is made from glucose syrup (corn syrup, water), sugar, sweet rice, water, lemon flavor, orange flavor, and Allura Red AC food coloring.  Inside the box were six reddish-pink pieces, measuring about 2 cm. by 1 cm. (or about .75 inches by .5 inches)  And here's where I have to admit something a little embarrassing.  After taking off the outer wrapper I was confronted by an inner wrapper surrounding each piece of candy.  Or, really, stuck onto/into the candy.  I tried to peel off this inner wrapper without success.  I quickly grew frustrated, and angry.   I bit into the candy as I could.  But after only a few brief tastes I threw the lot into the trash, cursing and carrying on about the terrible packaging.  Well, it turns out I was being unobservant, and bit foolish.  On the website, later, I read that the inner wrapper is made from edible material, and is designed to dissolve in the consumer's mouth.  "Why don't they print this on the box?" I wondered.  Then I looked at the box more closely.  On the inside of the end flaps it does indeed read, "Each candy has an edible inner wrapper that melts in your mouth."  Oops.  For the record, what little of the candy I did eat wasn't that great.  Kind of average, and not very sweet.  Fruity, in a pedestrian way.  But I'd be lying if I said that the annoying-at-the-time packaging didn't influence my overall opinion, so take that into account.  The box also came with a sticker, featuring a wild haired waiter standing next to a brown dog.  Don't know if this is a character from some other entertainment medium, or original to Seika.
     Therefore, I don't know if I'll try this again, if/when I get the chance.  Part of me doesn't want to, since I wasn't blown away by the taste, and out of slight shame/spite about the weird inner wrapper.  I guess I'll go with another of their candies, or an ice pop, instead.  And, as I said, the Seika website is definitely a cut above most food company websites, with its comprehensive business details, entertaining historical anecdotes, and even a touch of pathos for balance.

    Apparently I'm not the only one who was put off by Botan's strange inner wrapper.  My friend Keith found an image, which I'm posting below.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Latest Publishing Update--"The Big Book of Bootleg Horror Vol. 1"

     I'm happy to announce that another anthology is out which features one of my horror stories.  As you can see from the cover above, this one comes from HellBound Books, whose website address is:  I'll include the "blurb" below:

Twenty tales of terror, darkness, the truly macabre and things most unpleasant from a delectably eclectic bunch of the very best independent horror authors on the scene today!

S.E. Rise, Kevin Wetmore, Paul Stansfield, Craig Stewart, Shaun Avery, Jeff Myers, Marc DeWit, Timothy Wilkie, Quinn Cunningham, Melanie Waghorne, Marc E. Fitch, Stanley B. Webb, Tim J. Finn, Ken Goldman, Ralph Greco Jr, Roger Leatherwood, Vincent Treewell, David Owain Hughes, J.J. Smith and the inimitable James H. Longmore.

In this superlative tome, HellBound Books have embraced the taboo, gone all-out to horrify and have broken the flimsy boundaries of good taste to make The Big Book of Bootleg Horror the perfect anthology for those who take their horror like we take our coffee - insidiously dark and most definitely unsweetened.

    The paperback format is $15.99, and the Kindle ebook version is $4.99.  Enjoy!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Slovenian Mineral Water

     I have to admit, that up until very recently I wasn't entirely sure what mineral water was all about.  I can recall the use of it in the classic 1980's movie, "Heathers," but that's about it.  (For those that don't remember, in the film it's a sign of how backward and homophobic the town was, as consumption of this beverage made folks automatically question one's sexuality.)  Well, basically, mineral water is simply water that has minerals in it, such as salts and sulfur compounds.  Certain areas in the world are famous for their mineral water sources, as these were often supposed to have medicinal and healing qualities.  Spas often sprung up around them, and then people started to bottle and sell these waters.  Some are naturally carbonated.
     Obviously, Slovenia has some of these naturally occurring mineral water sources.  The brand I bought was Radenska.  In addition to marketing a few types of mineral waters, they also make flavored waters (their Oaza line), and carbonated soft drinks (their Ora line).  The former includes some exotic flavors, such as thyme, linden/honey/lime (linden is a tree sometimes used in herbal teas and tinctures), and elderflower and white tea.  I thought I was trying two types of mineral water, but alas I was careless and bought two bottles of the same kind by mistake, as the labels were slightly different.  So the only kind I was able to locate was their classic mineral water.  This beverage has high concentrations of calcium and magnesium in it.  Which is also the distinction of what constitutes "hard" water.  "Soft" water is water with low concentrations of magnesium and calcium.  (And evidently waters with a moderate amount of these substances are just "semihard, regular" water, I guess.)  If your home water supply is "hard," that can have negative effects.  Boilers' function may be affected, and household pipes may get clogged with mineral deposits.  Also soap may not lather properly in dishwashers and washing machines.  (Alternately, I've stayed in some hotels with overly "soft' water, which is unpleasant, too.  It feels greasy--like you still have soap on your hands even after rinsing thoroughly.)
     Anyway, I tried the classic Radenska, which came in a 1.5 liter plastic bottle, and a 1 liter glass bottle.  I had it chilled, but plain, and then over ice.  I could tell a difference between this and regular tap water.  Not really in a good way.  It wasn't as refreshing, somehow, as normal water.  A major factor was probably the carbonation.  Plus, to be fair, I think I've tried domestic mineral waters in my life, and came away similarly unimpressed.  So, while I didn't like it, and wouldn't recommend it, maybe avid mineral water drinkers would enjoy it.  (My father, for example, said he liked it just fine.)
     Finally, to throw out some very brief info about the country of Slovenia, it gained its independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991.  In 2004 the nation joined NATO and the European Union.  And the 2012 Global Peace Index rated them as one of the world's most peaceful countries.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Amish Cup Cheese

     We return once more to Amish cuisine.  Or the Pennsylvania "Dutch," as they're often called, which is incorrect and confusing.  That's a corruption of the word "Deutsch," or what the Germans call themselves.  So the Amish are originally from Germany, not The Netherlands.  The Amish, and the related Mennonites, are best known as being hardcore pacifists, who live a traditional, rural life, eschewing many modern technological inventions, such as zippers, computers, cars (for the Amish, that is, Mennonites sometimes drive black, nonfancy autos), etc.  The Amish and Mennonites live in other U.S. states (and parts of Europe and Canada), such as Delaware, Ohio, and Indiana, but the Keystone State-dwelling ones are the most famous.
     I happened to be in the heart of Pennsylvania "Dutch" country, near Lancaster, when I came upon something new in a huge grocery called Maple Farms.  It was authentic Amish cup cheese.  This is a soft, spreadable cheese, which gets its name from the container it's usually stored in.  Appropriate--a simple, basic name from folks who value plain things as a philosophy.  The cheese dates back to the late 1600's. when the Amish first settled in Pennsylvania, before it was even a U.S. state.  It's based on the German cheese called Kochkase (aka Koch Kse), and is also sometimes referred to as "soda cheese."  Cup cheese is made with soured milk which is then heated, strained, and melted.  Many consumers report a mild flavor, similar to French brie.  More infamous, though, is the purported odor.  Some think it has a strong, rank smell, akin to the notorious limburger cheese (see September 24, 2012 post).
     The kind I got was made by September Farms, out of Honey Brook, PA.  The label listed its ingredients as being processed American cheese, pasteurized milk, salt, rennet, and cheese culture.  It was about $5 for an 8 ounce (226 gram) container.  The cheese was light yellowish in color, and was indeed very soft.  Gooey, almost like a dip in texture.  I was surprised, and oddly disappointed, sort of, to discern no horrible scent.  In fact, I couldn't detect much of any odor, good or bad.  The taste was mild, and similar to liquidy American cheese, only a tad saltier.  Basic, but tasty.  Good both by itself, and on a cracker.   I was maybe a little let down that the flavor wasn't more strong and distinctive, but it certainly wasn't negative  My father tried it and had the same positive reaction, and echoed my opinion about the cheese's lack of terrible odor.
     All in all, then, I would recommend Amish cup cheese.  But if you're looking to gross someone out with a foul-smelling food, I'd look elsewhere.  (Or at least not buy September Farm's kind--it's possible this dairy tones down the smell.)

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Fijian Ginger Candy

     As with previous posts, the topic's origin is more than one place.  The ginger does indeed come from Fiji, but the company that packages it and distributes it, the Ginger People Group, is based in the U.S., California specifically.  This business is aptly named, as their products all revolve around ginger.  They make several kinds of ginger-based candies, ginger beer, and ginger energy drinks.  Also various products designed for ginger's alleged medical benefits, which are said to aid in digestion, help battle prostate cancer, nausea, and arthritis, and boost circulation, immunity, and energy, among others things.  The wonderful cable television program "Mythbusters" actually tested the notion that ginger pills can ward off seasickness, using a bizarre seasickness torture chair, and found that they actually worked, with no side effects.  (It was graded "plausible" for other, more detailed reasons--see episode guide for more information, if you care.)  According to the Ginger People Group, Fiji boasts some of the best ginger on Earth.  They cite the island nation's nutrient-rich soil, pristine ecosystems, and natural tropical rainfall irrigation.  Also, the farmer's strategy of rotating the crops with cassava and taro supposedly pays dividends, too.
     To give a very brief overview, Fiji consists of over 330 islands, and over 500 islets, in the Melanesian area of the Pacific.  The island's inhabitants traditionally used the term "Viti" to refer to their home, but their neighbors the Tongan Islanders used the name "Fiji."  English explorer Captain James Cook help promote the Fiji term, and it's stuck.  The island group has been independent since 1970, and a republic since 1987.  Alas, it's also been marked by political instability, with several military coups and other governmental changes during this time.  One of its old nicknames particularly interested me--the "Cannibal Isles."  In this case the title, often used inaccurately to deride an enemy country, appears to be accurate, as there is evidence that Fijians did partake in this controversial practice.  The Guinness Book of World Records even has one for the person who ate the most people in their life.  A Fijian chief, Ratu Udre Udre is listed as the champ, with at least 872 (and perhaps up to 1000) individual human victims consumed.  (This number was taken from the tradition of keeping a type of stone for every human eaten, and counting the pile later.)  (Furthermore, I don't mean to pick on the Fijians here.  Every country has had, shall we say, morally questionable cultural practices at one time or another.  This particular bit of historical trivia just piqued my interest.)
     But back to the product.  I ate a bag from the company's gin-gins line, the basic crystallized ginger flavor.  Other flavors in this line include spicy apple, peanut, uncrystallized ginger drops, double strength, super strength, and hot coffee.  The individual pieces were about .75 by .75 inch cubes (or about 2 cm. by 2 cm.), which were light brown in color, coated with crystallized sugar.  The texture was firm and chewy, but not exactly crunchy.  To be blunt, these candies were very much like the other dried, crystallized ginger candies I've had over the years.  Which is to say, excellent.  A nice spicy "bite," but not too much.  I love ginger, and ginger candy such as this has always been very tasty.  I don't know that the Fijian ginger was better than the other company's ginger, but it certainly wasn't any worse, either.  If you like ginger, you'll probably enjoy these.  Also, not surprisingly, these candies are billed as being all-natural, fat free, vegan, and gluten free, if you care about any of these things.  Finally, don't know if this is coincidental, but the gin-gins cartoon logo mascot is a little funny and strange.  It's a anthropomorphized piece of ginger, complete with limbs and a face, who's reclining on a pile of dried ginger, and tossing a piece in his (or her, that's not clear!) mouth.  Or, put another way, this individual is lying on the dried, dismembered corpses of his/her comrades, while also cannibalizing them!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Mexican/Japanese/American Peanut Snacks

     As readers can tell from all the slashes in the title, this one is more than a little confusing.  When I first picked these up, again from a Wegman's supermarket, I thought these were Mexican, since they were clearly marked, "Made in Mexico."  That the product name was "Samurai," complete with the appropriate sword in the logo, I figured, was kind of random, just a marketing decision.  But it turns out I was wrong.  "Japanese peanuts," usually referred to as "cacahuates japoneses" or "mani japones" in Spanish-speaking countries, and as "cracker peanuts" in English-speaking nations, were invented by a Japanese-Mexican.  Yoshigei Nakatani immigrated to Mexico in 1932, married a local Mexican woman, had kids, and converted to Catholicism.  Somewhere between 1945-1951 (sources vary), he developed a new kind of snack, by coating peanuts in wheat flour dough and then frying them.  He sold these in Mexico City, and they quickly became popular throughout the country.  Several others came up with versions of his snack, so now you can buy many variants of these special peanuts.
     Alas, I purchased an American knockoff.  From Tuty, a company that started in 2005 in Texas, and now has plants in Mexico, too.  (They also make other peanut-based snacks, cheese snacks, sweet bar snacks, and alternate flavors of cracker peanuts, including chili, habonero, and sriracha.)  According to a blog I read, although Tuty's Samurai peanuts are popular in Mexico, many Mexicans consider the Nishikawa ones to be the best.  Tuty's website is rather sparse about its history, or other information, but, to be fair, they are pretty new.  Also, they sometimes refer to this brand as "Samura," since the handle of the sword hanging below the word in the logo makes the "i" at the end of the word.  Even though it's clearly meant to be "samurai,"--it doesn't make much sense.
     Anyway, I had the classic Samurai coated peanuts, the coated peanuts with lemon, and the cacahuates, the uncoated chili-flavored peanuts.  My notes for each are below.

Samurai classic coated peanuts:  Look like tiny potatoes with their coating.  Taste pretty good, but since I really enjoy peanuts, this isn't unexpected.  Slightly salty, and tangier than most peanuts.  Overall were more than solid.

Samurai coated peanuts with lemon:  Slight lemon tang.  Didn't like as much as the classic one, or the chili ones.  Lemon flavor not as good. Not a very pleasing flavor pairing.  Not atrocious, but not especially tasty, either.

Samurai uncoated chili-flavored peanuts:  Just peanuts covered in reddish spice powder.  Spicy as advertised.  Not overly hot, but a nice "bite."  Pretty good--liked these better than the lemon ones, but not quite as much as the classic coated.

     Therefore, I would recommend these, except maybe for the coated kind with lemon.  It's pretty difficult to mess up peanuts as a food, and the "cracker peanuts" seem like a decent to very good variant of them.  (One notable peanut-based snack that is terrible is the Southern U.S. cultural abomination known as "boiled peanuts," which take a tasty treat and turn it into a revolting, salty mush.)  I wish I'd tried a more authentic Mexican/Japanese type, though.  Hopefully I'll get the chance, and then I can compare them to the Tuty ones.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Unique or at Least Rare Major League Baseball Feats and Records

     The baseball season is nearly upon us, so today I thought I'd discuss some unusual happenings in its history.  And good luck to my Phillies in the upcoming season.  Assuming that their young players progress nicely, and that they don't have too many injuries, I think they could possibly win 75-81 games this year.  (I'm realistic.)  As usual, I'll use some statistical shorthand here and there.  A three part "slash," such as .250/.320/.430 indicates, respectively, batting average/on base percentage/slugging average.  And for position players, a number followed by a plus sign, like 100+ indicates OPS adjusted, or on base plus slugging average, adjusted for time period, stadium, etc., with 100 being average, and above that good, etc.  Positions are abbreviated 1B for first baseman, SS for shortstop, OF for outfielder, P for pitcher, etc.  Let's get to it.

   Sometimes, baseball is a family affair, with brothers, or fathers and sons all having time in the majors.  Here are MLB's 3 generation families:

1) OF Gus Bell (1950-64) sired 3B/OF Buddy Bell (1972-89), who then fathered 3B/PH Mike Bell (2000), and 2B/3B David Bell (1995-2006).

2) 3B/SS/1B Ray Boone (1948-60) fathered C Bob Boone (1972-90), who in turn produced 2B Bret Boone (1992-2005), and 3B/1B Aaron Boone (1997-2009).

3) Then there's the pitching Colemans, with Joe (1942-55), Joe, Jr. (1965-79), and then Casey (2010-14).

4) PH/C Sam Hairston (1951) produced PH/OF/1B Jerry (1973-89), who then sired 2B/OF/3B Jerry, Jr. (1998-2013), and OF/PH/2B Scott (2004-14).

5) SS/2B/3B Dick Schofield (1953-71) produced SS Dick (1983-96), who in turn was the uncle to OF Jayson Werth (2002-present), who's stepdad was 1B/OF/C Dennis Werth (1979-82).

    Sometimes, fathers and sons even played on the same team.  For example, Hall of Fame OF Tim Raines played with his son, Tim, Jr., also an OF, with the Baltimore Orioles in 2001.  OF/1B Ken Griffey (1973-91) played with Hall of Fame OF Ken, Jr. (1989-2010) on the Seattle Mariners together in 1990.  They even hit home runs back to back on Sept. 14, 1990.

     Moving to umpires, Hall of Famer Ed Runge, his son Paul, and his son Brian, all umpired in the Majors.

     On Sept. 15, 1963, the San Francisco Giants had an all-Alou outfield, with Felipe, Matty, and Jesus all playing at the same time.

     Incredibly, 5 brothers from one family all played in the Majors.  Most notably, Hall of Fame OF/1B/2B Ed Delahanty, along with 2B/3B/OF Jim, 3B/2B/SS Tom, OF Frank, and OF/2B Joe, in the late 1890's, early 1900's.  Next up is the O'Neill family, who sent brothers Steve (catcher and manager), C Jack, SS/2B/3B Jim, and P/OF Mike to the Majors in the early 1900's again.  To be fair, if it wasn't for MLB's shameful race barrier from the late 1800's to 1947, the Bankheads might have had 5 major leaguers, too.  Pitcher Dan did make the Majors in 1947, while his brothers Sam (INF/OF), Fred (INF), Joe (P), and Garnett (No positional information) all played in the Negro Leagues.

     Obviously, the most exciting way for a game to end is on a walk-off play, when the home team wins instantly in the last inning.  It's happened eleven times in the final game of a World Series.  Winning teams listed first.

1912 Boston Red Sox vs. New York Giants, Game 8 (Game 2 called for darkness).  Larry Gardner's sacrifice fly wins the championship in the 10th inning, 3-2.

1924 Washington Senators vs. New York Giants, Game 7.  Earl McNeely's double (some sources claim it was a single) knocks in the winning run in the 12th inning, 4-3.

1927 New York Yankees vs. Pittsburgh Pirates, Game 4.  Pittsburgh hurler Johnny Miljus's wild pitch allows Yankee Earle Combs to score the winning run in the 9th inning, 4-3.

1929 Philadelphia Athletics vs. Chicago Cubs, Game 5.  Bing Miller's double in the 9th inning wins the Series, 3-2.

1935 Detroit Tigers vs. Chicago Cubs, Game 6.  A single by Goose Goslin plates the winning run in the 9th inning, 4-3.

1953 New York Yankees vs. Brooklyn Dodgers, Game 6.  Billy Martin's single knocks in the winning run in the 9th inning, 4-3.

1960 Pittsburgh Pirates vs. New York Yankees, Game 7.  Bill Mazeroski hits the first walk off, Series-winning home run in the 9th inning, Pirates winning 10-9.

1991 Minnesota Twins vs. Atlanta Braves, Game 7.  Gene Larkin's single over a pulled in outfield wins the game 1-0, in the 9th inning for the Twins.

1993 Toronto Blue Jays vs. Philadelphia Phillies, Game 6.  Joe Carter's home run in the 9th inning wins the Series for the Jays, 8-6.

1997 Florida Marlins vs. Cleveland Indians, Game 7.  Edgar Renteria's single scores the winning run in the 9th inning, 3-2.

2001 Arizona Diamondbacks vs. New York Yankees, Game 7.  Luis Gonzalez singles in the winning run in the 9th inning, 3-2.

     Two players have hit a grand slam home run on the first pitch they saw in the majors--Kevin Kouzmanoff did it for the Cleveland Indians on Sept. 2, 2006, and Daniel Nava did it for the Boston Red Sox on June 12, 2010.

     The record for the most total bases in one game is 19, set by Los Angeles Dodger Shawn Green on May 23, 2002.  He hit 4 home runs (tied for the all time record), 1 double, and a single.

     The record for most rbi in one game is 12, held by two St. Louis Cardinals players.  Hall of Fame 1B Jim Bottomley got his on Sept. 16, 1924, while OF Mark Whiten did it on Sept. 7, 1993.

     Probably the ultimate sign of respect is when a batter is intentionally walked with the bases loaded, since that guarantees that one run will score.  It's been done 6 times:

1) Abner Dalrymple of the Chicago Cubs, on August 2, 1881.

2) Nap Lajoie of the Philadelpia Athletics, on May 23, 1901.  (He won the Triple Crown that year, leading the league in batting average, home runs, and rbi.)

3) Del Bissonette of the Brooklyn Dodgers, on May 2, 1928.  (I'd never heard of Bissonette, but he hit .320/.396/.543 that year, so it makes sense.)

4) Bill Nicholson of the Chicago Cubs, on July 23, 1944, second game of doubleheader.  (Nicholson had already hit 4 home runs total that day, over the two games, so this is very understandable.)

5) Barry Bonds of San Francisco Giants, on May 28, 1998.  (All time home run leader Bonds was obviously an incredibly dangerous hitter, a sure fire Hall of Famer if he hadn't done PED's.)

6) Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers, on Aug. 17, 2008.
         (One source claimed this was done to Mel Ott, too, but I couldn't confirm it.)

     Toby Harrah did something no other shortstop ever did before, or since, on June 25, 1976.  He played an entire doubleheader while having no defensive chances.

     On August 4, 1982, Joel Youngblood became the only man to get hits for two different teams, in two different cities, on the same day.  He got the first as a New York Met in a day game in Chicago.  Then, he was traded after the game to the Montreal Expos.  He flew to Philadelphia in time to play in their night game vs. the Phillies, and got his second hit.

     Consider poor Larry Yount. On Sept. 15, 1971, while playing for the Houston Astros, he was announced as the next pitcher late in the game.  This was his debut in the majors.  However, he injured himself while making his warm up throws, and had to leave the game without throwing a single pitch.  So by league rules he's credited with appearing in one game, since he was officially announced, but he's the only guy to never actually participate in any game action!  And alas, while he healed up and pitched in the minors afterwards, he never was called up to the majors again.  He's also the older brother of Hall of Fame SS/OF Robin Yount.

     The most batters faced by a pitcher without getting a single out in a career in held by Elmer "Doc" Hamann, with the Cleveland Indians on Sept. 21, 1922 vs. the Boston Red Sox.  He faced 7 batters and gave up 3 hits, walked 3, hit 1 batter, and threw a wild pitch for good measure, giving up 6 runs.

     On a similar note, the highest lifetime ERA for a pitcher (excluding men like Hamann, who's ERA is infinity because he didn't record an out), is 189.00, set by Joe Cleary of the Washington Senators on August 4, 1945.  He gave up 5 hits, 3 walks, 1 wild pitch, and 7 earned runs in one third of an inning.  (He's also the last Ireland-born major leaguer.)  He was relieved by Bert Shepard, in his only major league appearance, who pitched 5 and a third innings, and gave up only 3 hits, 1 walk, and 1 run.  Shepard's unique because due to a war injury he only had one leg!

     The record for most lifetime at bats without a hit, pitchers excluded, is 23, held by 2 players.  Larry Littleton, with the 1981 Cleveland Indians, and Mike Potter, with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1976-77.  Potter did walk once, and Littleton 3 times.

     Continuing with negative individual records, only one guy ever made 4 errors on one play--Mike Grady, with the 1899 New York Giants (couldn't find the exact date, or much detail.)  Reportedly, while playing third be first booted a ground ball for error #1.  Then he threw the ball over the first baseman's head for error #2.  The right fielder then threw the ball to Grady to catch the baserunner near third.  Grady dropped the ball for error #3.  Then, as the runner broke for home, Grady threw the ball over the catcher's head, into the stands, for error #4!  Although he was terrible on this play, Grady was a good player overall, in his career from 1894-1906.  He finished at .294/.374/.425, with an adjusted OPS of 126.  He also helped save a family from a fire about a year later.

     The all time worst choke by a team leading with 2 outs in the 9th inning, and no baserunners, was the Washington Senators vs. the Cleveland Blues (later Indians) on May 23, 1901.  Pitcher Casey Patten had a 13-5 lead, and opened the 9th by getting the first two outs.  Then, he, and a reliever, proceeded to give up 6 singles, 2 doubles, 1 walk, a hit batsman, and a passed ball, total, as well as 9 runs, to lose 14-13!

     Outfielder Rick Bosetti had an obscure career from 1976-82, with the Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays, and Oakland Athletics, finishing with a line of .250/.288/.338, and an OPS+ of 72.  However, in 1979 he told the press of his, shall we say, unorthodox accomplishments.  He claimed to have urinated on the grass of every ball park in the league.  In interviews he said this was done before the games, while the stands were empty, but others claimed he sometimes did it during the games, during pitching changes, just to prove that he could do it without being caught (supposedly he stood up against the outfield wall, covered himself with his glove, and went).  Assuming the rumors were true, he certainly risked being arrested for public urination/indecent exposure in one of the more dramatic, weirdest ways possible!

     Enjoy the season.  Thanks to, several blogs, and "The Baseball Hall of Shame" book series ( by Bruce Nash and Allan Zullo).

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--A Scottish Drink and Candy Bar

     These two were yet another Wegman's international aisle find.  Today I'll be discussing Lees Jaffa orange chocolate candy bar and A.G. Barr's Irn-Bru soda.  Lees has been around since 1931, and basically makes desserts.  Snowballs, teacakes, meringues, and confectionery bars.  For the latter, aside from the one I was able to get, they also make macaroon, creamy strawberry, raspberry coconut ice, mint chocolate, Scottish tablet, and Scottish fudge.  Their website also has a place where kids (or adults, I suppose) can play a "Space Invaders" ripoff called "Cake Invaders."
     A.G. Barr started as a cork-cutting business in 1830, but in 1871 they ventured into carbonated soft drinks, then called "aerated water."  The business promptly flourished, partially for depressing reasons.  As reported on the website, many Scottish industrial towns at the time were known for their poor sanitation, and correspondingly bad quality water, so a soft drink made from clean water and ingredients was the safer bet.  (Of course, taken to an extreme this would lead to severe dehydration, but in small doses it seems to have helped.)  In 1901 the company launched their signature drink, Iron Brew.  It became known as "Scotland's National Drink," after whisky (also spelled whiskey in much of the world),  They even made fun of the drink's orange color, by having the slogan, "Made in Scotland from girders."  One of Iron Brew's earliest celebrity pitchmen was Alex Munro, who was a champion in a quintessentially Scottish sport--caber tossing.  Due to World War II's strict rationing of food and beverage supplies, Iron Brew was not made from 1942-47.  When A.G. Barr found out that this rationing would end soon, they decided to change the drink's name, out of fear of reports about the new food regulation labeling laws.  The rumor was that labels and names had to be absurdly literal, so much so that calling their drink Iron Brew might be targeted because while it did have some iron in it, it wasn't technically brewed.  So Iron Brew became Irn-Bru.  One additional odd detail about this is these laws reportedly didn't go into effect until 1964, and when they did they weren't as ridiculous as feared.  So, basically the name was changed for nothing.  Once the drink was produced again, it was as popular as ever.  Currently it's the most popular soft drink in Scotland, beating out Coke and Pepsi, even.  And, like Coke, the recipe for Irn-Bru, using 32 ingredients, is a strict secret, known by only 3 people.  Aside from their signature drink, A.G.Barr also sells fruit drinks, drink cocktail mixes (their Funkin line), original, old timey soda styles, and other soft drinks.  The one that really caught my eye was D'N'B, a dandelion and burdock flavored drink (see the January 12, 2015 and April 13, 2013 posts for more info on these foods).  Irn-Bru does have some controversy, though.  It uses the Sunset Yellow FCF and Ponceau 4R food colorings, which are thought to possibly cause hyperactivity and ADHD in children.  Also, quinine, which in extreme cases can cause nasty side effects like headaches, irregular heartbeat, deafness, and other symptoms, some pretty serious.
     The Jaffa orange bar looked like a typical one, covered in wavy dark chocolate.  The inner portion was a yellowish-orange color, not surprisingly.  Since I prefer milk chocolate to dark chocolate, this bar had that hurdle to overcome, for me.  It was okay--the filling was noticeably orange-y, and it somehow had a York Peppermint Patty thing going for it.  So overall, it was pretty average for a chocolate bar.  Of course those who prefer dark chocolate would probably enjoy it more than I did.
     The Irn-Bru was in a 16.9 ounce (500 milliliter) bottle, and had the expected orange hue.  The 32 secret flavors were hard to pin down.  I kind of associated it most with a root beerish flavor.  Once again, I didn't hate it, but also didn't love it.  Alright, kind of "meh."  Famous Scottish comedian Billy Connolly had a bit on his 1975 album extolling Irn-Bru's alleged benefits as a hangover cure.  I didn't test this property myself.
     In conclusion, then, I wouldn't really recommend either the Irn-Bru or the Lees Jaffa orange bar, but I wouldn't warn against them, either.  If/when I get the opportunity, I think I'll go with other A.G. Barr and Lees varieties.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Sour Oranges

     Sour oranges (aka bitter oranges, Seville oranges, marmalade oranges) are native to Southeast Asia, as are many/most citrus fruits.  They're a hybrid of the mandarin orange and pumellos.  Currently they're grown all over the world, at least the parts of the world that have hot enough climates.  Here in the U.S. they're cultivated in Florida, and obviously the area around Seville, Spain, is another spot that produces a lot of them.
     In looking this fruit up, I learned that is has many non-edible uses.  Perfumes sometimes use the essential oils from sour oranges.  The wood from their trees is used for carved items.  Soap can be made from their fruit.  Plus, sour oranges are utilized in herbal medicine, usually as an appetite suppressant or as a stimulant.  (More on this later.)  Not to say that they're not used in edibles, of course.  One of their nicknames reveals that they're used in making marmalade.  And the Belgian witbier (white beer) style sometimes uses the peel of this fruit as a flavor additive.
    There are several subspecies of sour orange.  The one I bought was greenish-yellow in color, and small, maybe the size of a typical tangerine, or a small orange.  The pulp inside was roughly the same hue.  The taste was.....absolutely wretched.  Here are the notes that I wrote after eating it:  "Ugh.  Tastes like grapefruit--sour as hell.  Awful.  Why do people eat this?"  I choked down two segments, then I stopped punishing myself.  I squeezed some juice out of the remaining pulp, and tried that separately.  This was similarly crappy.  The sour orange was definitely one of the worst fruits I've tried, and probably one of the worst foods, ever.  It was an even more atrocious version of grapefruit. Maybe the scent is good, or the marmalade made with it.  I've liked some Belgian wit biers, so it's possible I've enjoyed sour orange in that limited context.  But as a regular fruits, as a snack, or in a salad, I would only wish it upon my worst enemies, and even then I'd have to think about it.  It was cheap, at least, being about $0.80 for the one I got.
     As for sour oranges in herbal supplement form, there are many red flags.  Evidently its negative side effects are similar to ephedra, with an increased chance of angina, ischemic colitis, and strokes.  So beware of sour orange in that form, too.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Israeli Snacks

     I'm heading to the Middle East for this post.  Wegman's grocery came through yet again.  Today I'll be talking about two products from Osem--Bamba peanut snacks and Petit Beuree biscuits.  And then two products from Unilever--the Klik La-Hit and the Klik Choko-kid candy bars.
     I'd never heard of Osem or Unilever, which shows how little I know about European and Middle Eastern companies.  Because both are absolutely huge.  Osem started in 1942, as a consolidation of several noodle factories, accomplished by a group known as the Amazing Seven.  "Osem" means "plenty" in a Yom Kippur prayer.  Osem started off making pastries, baked goods, sauces, ketchup, and soup.  Then, in 1995 they partnered up with the immense international company Nestle.  Nestle now owns a majority of the company.  Through this merger, Osem now also manufactures pet food, pickles, canned foods, and jams.  And probably many other things--I grew exhausted reading through their website!
     Unilever began in 1929, as the Dutch margarine company Unie and the British soupmaking Lever Brothers combined, and merged their name as if they were a Hollywood acting couple in a tabloid.  It was a natural marriage, since both companies depended heavily on palm oil.  Unilever grew into the mammoth outfit that they are today.  It has offices and factories on every continent save Antarctica, and they're presumably negotiating with the few scientists on that icy world to eventually open some there, too.  Included in the Unilever umbrella are Dove, Lipton, Lux, Sunsilk, and Hellmann's to name just a few of its brands.  Unilever's main competitors are Proctor & Gamble and.....Nestle.
     But enough about business, let's get to the food.  The Klik La-Hit candy bar is a crispy bar filled with nougat, coated with milk chocolate.  The one I had was good sized, being about 5 inches by 1 inch (or about 12.5 cm. by 2.5 cm.).  Its texture was rather like a Kit Kat bar, and the filling was certainly distinct.  It was good.  Not spectacular, but tasty.  I've found it's difficult to truly mess up a chocolate candy bar, and this was no exception.  The Klik Choco-kid bar was a bit smaller, about 4 inches by 1 inch (about 10.5 cm. by 2.5 cm.), and strange looking.  To use a particularly unappetizing comparison, it looked somewhat like a turd.  It was composed of about 20 roundish shapes pressed into each other.  Its color was brownish, with a white coating.  This bar was milk chocolate around an milk cream filling.  And the taste was really top notch.  The milk cream filling really made it stand out.  An excellent example of a chocolate candy bar.
     The Osem Petit Beurre biscuits were pretty big, about 2.5 by 2 inches (about 6.5 cm. by 5.5 cm.) roughly rectangular shaped.  It had regular protuberances around its edges, like it was a badge or something, and was yellowish-brown in color.  The company and product name were etched on the front of the cookie.  The flavor was not as sweet as most American cookies.  But it was still okay.  I should explain, in the U.S, a "biscuit" is like a dense roll, a dinner side, often buttered or covered with gravy.  And a "cookie" is the sweet dessert baked good, such as an Oreo, vanilla wafer, chocolate chip, etc.  Apparently in much of Europe a biscuit is their name for cookies.  Cultural differences, like football/soccer all over again.  Moving on, the Osem Bamba is a peanut snack, which looks like a yellowish-brown cheese curl, or cheese doodle.  When the Bamba was first developed, in 1964, it was very similar to a cheese curl, since it was also cheese-flavored.  However, in 1966 they were switched to be peanut flavored.  And they flourished.  To a ridiculous degree.  I read that Bambas are the most popular snack in Israel, as an astounding 90% or households buy them regularly.  They're reportedly healthier than most snacks, jam-packed with vitamins.  (I noticed an irregularity, here, as the nutrition information on the label for mine listed 0% Vitamin A, C, calcium, and iron.  Don't know what the deal is.)  A recent British study suggests that snacks like Bamba might explain why Israeli children suffer from less peanut allergies than American kids do.  Supposedly the Israeli tots eat lots of peanuts when young, unlike Americans, and as a result they don't develop that allergy.  (I want to stress that this study isn't completely substantiated, or the situation may not be this cause-and-effect, so don't feed your toddlers tons of peanuts based on this!)  I thought the texture of the Bambas was just like a cheese curl.  The taste was a little weird at first--kind of like a salty snack, but the peanut flavor made it seem a little sweetish, too.  It really grew on me, though.  I finished the bag eagerly, and really enjoyed it.  I also found the product's character logo to be amusing--it's a baby, lifting a huge barbell with one hand while the other is giving a "thumbs up."
     All in all, then, the Israeli snacks I tried were pretty impressive.  Even the weaker ones were solid, and the stronger ones were quite tasty.  I'd advise grabbing them if you can.  And given how ubiquitous their manufacturers are, you probably can locate them fairly easily.