Thursday, October 15, 2009

King Glibert in his new tent...

A little behind on keeping all informed of Gilbert's progress... Toward the end of the monsoon season, I grew realized that at the pace we were moving on the trailer restoration, we may not get it done before I died. Gary blamed this largely on the fact that he had nowhere to work and the threat of rain made him hesitate to "uncover" the king while he was working. So, I decided to buy the old man a tent to live in. Behold, the Palace of King Gilbert the Land Commander:

Well, so it's not exactly Buckingham - but it has served it's purpose marvelously! Progress has picked up.

Ooh! Look! Bare skin! Just think - one whole wall - actually looking and functioning like...a wall!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Another project update - the King Continues...

So, work on the king continues, often thwarted by weather and stiffling heat... For Gary, however, this is sort of the ultimate project: when he gets bored of stripping paint, he installs insulation; when he gets bored of that, he can add more framing pieces; when that's old, he can bondo holes and smooth out dents; when he's high on bondo, he can go inside and get a bigger high off of the laquer thinner on the panneling; it NEVER ends!

I just pray to whatever saint presides over travel trailers and interminable projects that it does, someday, start to look more like a place to live and less like modern art in the making...

So here is the insulation he's installing. In some cases, the old insulation came out with the crumbling wall, but on this side (as you can see) he's just supplementing the old insulation. I see warm toasty nights in the forest in our future...

Here is an interior shot. This will someday, in some way, become our boudoir. Hmph. That's the new panneling for the wall which deteriorated.

Here's the section he's completed stripping. We were thinking originally it could be nice to leave it bare metal, but it's really not in good enough condition, and now we're thinking it will probably be better painted (read: stripping all the paint off is a huge pain in the pumkin, which is probably why someone else just painted over the old stuff in the first place).
Inside - Gary is already threatening to quit early and make this his new workshop. Ain't gonna happen. You ever see a woman open a can o' whoop ass on a trailer? Just wait!
Wiring - Gary decided that this was the better way to do it. Of course, it takes longer, requires more tools and is probably unnecessary... But, this is Gary we're talking about here...
I think it might be better to tow it with the truck, though the image of Gary in a leather harness strapped to this thing and pulling it down the road gets me through many difficult nights working on the trailer...
Very Mondrian, wouldn't you say? The framing is all complete on the collapsed wall. And it's straight. Don't look to close - it is. Just trust in Gary.

The front also needed new framing. Heck, the whole trailer was little more than a rotted shell. Great buy. All hail the king!

Everything needs to be rebuilt - including the kitchen sink!

Here's the project site. Actually, we finally got around to getting a "real" cover for ol' Gilbert... That's for the next post, however...

My back yard. SO real Arizona.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Update on the Wendy Project...

That would be, my attempt to get the world to "do the Wendy" with me!

My first attempt was at Antelope Canyon in northern Arizona. This was highly successful due to the fact that it is a) a popular tourist attraction and b) sort of a captive audience. I think half of the folks in this shot didn't even speak enough English to know what was going on- but they had a great time anyway! (Maybe they think 'doing the Wendy' is some sort of new yoga move!)

Antelope Canyon - June 2009

My second was less of a smash - due to there being few people to join me in the remote wilderness of Mt. Lemmon. Okay, not so remote, but not a well traveled weekend. I'm pretty sure this guy would have been doing the Wendy if he only had arms, though.

Then I went rappelling at the Practice Wall up on Mt. Lemmon. SO cool! Surviving that was enough to make everyone feel victorious. I particularly like the extra bit of spark the girl on the right gave her pose! There's a girl who's just waiting to find her own signature move...

Mt. Lemmon - Aug. 2009

Occasionally, I get sent photos of other people doing the Wendy on their own, and I STRONGLY encourage this kind of reckless and crazy behavior. Just make sure you're not smacking anyone in the face while trying...

Angela does her Wendy on the AZ Trail! You go, girl!

Shannon and her 'big sis' work together to create a Wendy in Kohler Andre State Park. I LOVE teamwork! They've definitely perfected the way to do it without striking close friends in the face!

Then those who are more direct in they're imitation:

Me at Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon, Sept. 2009

And Joe Bartels in Salt Creek, also Grand Canyon Sept. 2009. Gotta give the guy credit - he practicaly invented the term "throw a Wendy"...
(at - my favorite online community!)

I love the idea that not only are people thinking of me when they're in amazing places and having an amazing time - but they're having a GREAT time. The Wendy is about fun, the Wendy is about breaking down convention and social barriers. The Wendy is about getting down and celebrating being alive. I mean, come on, how much more togetherness can we all stand before we puke?

Havasu Falls - Sept. 2009

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Because I swore off politics on facebook...

I think this just about says it all.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Random Wisdom from People Our Age

Let me preface this by saying I didn't write this. But whoever did was brilliant. And I agree with all of it. Except for #13. My four months working in the Bedding and Bath Department at Sears taught me something after all.

Random Thoughts From People Our Age:

1. I wish Google Maps had an
"Avoid Ghetto" routing option.

2. More often than not, when someone is telling me a story all I can
think about is that I can't wait for them to finish so that I can tell
my own story that's not only better, but also more directly involves

3. Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you
realize you're wrong.

4. I don't understand the purpose of the line, "I don't need to drink to
have fun." Great, no one does. But why start a fire with flint and
sticks when they've invented the lighter?

5. Have you ever been walking down the street and realized that you're
going in the complete opposite direction of where you are supposed to
be going? But instead of just turning a 180 and walking back in the
direction from which you came, you have to first do something like
check your watch or phone or make a grand arm gesture and mutter to
yourself to ensure that no one in the surrounding area thinks you're
crazy by randomly switching directions on the sidewalk.

6. That's enough, Nickelback.

7. I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.

8. Is it just me, or are 80% of the people in the "people you may know"
feature on Facebook people that I do know, but I deliberately choose
not to be friends with?

9. Do you remember when you were a kid, playing Nintendo and it wouldn't
work? You take the cartridge out, blow in it and that would magically
fix the problem. Every kid in America did that, but how did we all
know how to fix the problem? There was no internet or message boards
or FAQ's. We just figured it out. Today's kids are soft.

10. There is a great need for sarcasm font.

11. Sometimes, I'll watch a movie that I watched when I was younger and
suddenly realize I had no idea what the f** was going on when I first
saw it.

12. I think everyone has a movie that they love so much, it actually
becomes stressful to watch it with other people. I'll end up wasting
90 minutes shiftily glancing around to confirm that everyone's
laughing at the right parts, then making sure I laugh just a little
bit20harder (and a millisecond earlier) to prove that I'm still the
only one who really, really gets it.

How the hell are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?

14. I would rather try to carry 10 plastic grocery bags in each hand than
take 2 trips to bring my groceries in.

15. I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear
your computer history if you die.

16. The only time I look forward to a red light is when I’m trying to
finish a text.

17. A recent study has shown that playing beer pong contributes to the
spread of mono and the flu. Yeah, if you suck at it.

18. Was learning cursive really necessary?

19. LOL has gone from meaning, "laugh out loud" to "I have nothing else to say".

20. I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.

21. Answering the same letter three times or more in a row on a Scantron
test is absolutely petrifying.

22. My brother's Municipal League baseball team is named the Stepdads.
Seeing as none of the guys on the team are actual stepdads, I inquired
about the name. He explained, "Cuz we beat you, and you hate us."
Classy, bro.

23. Whenever someone says "I'm not book smart, but I'm street smart",
all I hear is "I'm not real smart, but I'm imaginary smart".

24. How many times is it appropriate to say "What?" before you just nod
and smile because you still didn't hear what they said?

25. I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars teams up
to prevent a dick from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers!

26. Every time I have to spell a word over the phone using 'as in'
examples, I will undoubtedly draw a blank and sound like a complete
idiot. Today I had to spell my boss's last name to an attorney and
said "Yes that's G as in...(10 second lapse)..ummm...Goonies"

27. What would happen if I hired two private investigators to follow each other?

28. While driving yester day I saw a banana peel in the road and
instinctively swerved to avoid it...thanks Mario Kart.

29. MapQuest really needs to start their directions on #5. Pretty sure I
know how to get out of my neighborhood.

30. Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the
person died.

31. I find it hard to believe there are actually people who get in the
shower first and THEN turn on the water.

32. Shirts get dirty. Underwear gets dirty. Pants? Pants never get dirty,
and you can wear them forever.

33. I would like to officially coin the phrase 'catching the swine flu'
to be used as a way to make fun of a friend for hooking up with an
overweight woman. Example: "Dave caught the swine flu last night."

34. I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.

35. Bad decisions make good stories

36. Whenever I'm Facebook stalking someone and I find o ut that their
profile is public I feel like a kid on Christmas morning who just got
the Red Ryder BB gun that I always wanted. 546 pictures? Don't mind if
I do!

37. Is it just me or do high school girls get sluttier & sluttier every year?

38. If Carmen San Diego and Waldo ever got together, their offspring
would probably just be complet ely invisible.

39. Why is it that during an ice-breaker, when the whole room has to go
around and say their name and where they are from, I get so incredibly
nervous? Like I know my name, I know where I'm f rom, this shouldn't
be a problem....

40. You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work
when you've made up your mind that you just aren't doing anything
productive for the rest of the day.

41. Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after DVDs? I don't
want to have to restart my collection.

42. There's no worse feeling than that millisecond you're sure you are
going to die after leaning your chair back a little too far.

43. I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me
if I want to save any changes to my ten page research paper that I
swear I did not make any changes to.

44. "Do not machine wash or tumble dry" means I will never wash this ever.

45. I hate being the one with the remote in a room full of people
watching TV. There's so much pressure. 'I love this show, but wil l
they judge me if I keep it on? I bet everyone is wishing we weren't
watching this. It's only a matter of time before they all get up and
leave the room. Will we still be friends after this?'

46. I hate when I just miss a call by the last ring (Hello? Hello?
Dammit!), but when I immediately call back, it rings nine times and
goes to voicemail. What'd you do after I didn't answer? Drop the phone
and run away?

47. I hate leaving my house confident and looking good and then not
seeing anyone of importance the entire day. What a waste.

48. When I meet a new girl, I'm terrified of mentio ning something she
hasn't already told me but that I have learned from some light
internet stalking.

49. I like all of the music in my iTunes, except when it's on shuffle,
then I like about one in every fifteen songs in my iTunes.

50. Why is a school zone 20 mph? That seems like the optimal cruising
speed for pedophiles...

51. As a driver I hate pedestrians, and as a pedestrian I hate drivers,
but no matter what the mode of transportation, I always hate cyclists.

52. Sometimes I'll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still
not know what time it is.

53. It should probably be called Unplanned Parenthood.

54. I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to
answer when they call.

55. Even if I knew your social security number, I wouldn't know what do to with=2 0it.

56. Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car
keys in a pocket, hitting the G-spot, and Pinning the Tail on the
Donkey - but I’d bet my ass everyone can find and push the Snooze
button f rom 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time
every time...

57. My 4-year old son asked me in the car the other day "Dad what would
happen if you ran over a ninja?" How the hell do I respond to that?

58. It really pisses me off when I want to read a story on and
the link takes me to a video instead of text.

59. I wonder if cops ever get pissed off at the fact that everyone they d
rive behind obeys the speed limit.

60. I think the freezer deserves a light as well.

61. I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or
Saturday night more kisses begin with Miller Lites than Kay.

62. The other night I ordered takeout, and when I looked in the bag, saw
they had included four sets of plastic silverware. In other words,
someone at the restaurant packed my order, took a second to think
about it, and then estimated that there must be at least four people
eating to require such a large amount of food. Too bad I was eating by
myself. There's nothing like being made to feel like a fat bastard
before dinner.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fun Summer Drinks...

This web site tells us that it's okay to mix our beer with other stuff to make "beer cocktails" - even though it's perhaps a bit uncouth according to the American norm. Given my husband's love for the Mexican Michalada, I think this could be an idea that catches on. Here are some highlights:

Freshly squeezed juice of 2-3 limes
12 oz. Mexican beer, like Corona
3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
2 dashes hot sauce, such as Tabasco
1/4 C Clamato or other tomato juice
Salt rim of beer mug and fill with ice. Add lime juice. Fill almost to top with beer and add Worcestershire, hot sauce, and Clamato. Garnish with lime wedge.

6 ounces light beer
6 ounces lemonade (ginger ale and Sprite also work)
Combine, drink, repeat.

1 pint beer
1-1/2 ounces whiskey
Drink together, with the whiskey as a chaser, or drop the shot glass in Irish Car Bomb-style.

1/2 pint lager
1/2 pint hard cider (optional)
1-2 shots of vodka Mix lager with cider. Attempt to remain upright.

Could result in things like this:


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Do you know Pancho Barnes?

No, it's not the name of another kitchy Mexican food restaurant in Phoenix, nor is "he" an old singing cowboy from the silver screen... Nope, Pancho is not only white, but a girl to boot - an amazing woman with an amazing story. Can't believe I'd never heard it before!

I came across the story of Pancho Barnes because a documentary on her life was being screened over at the Loft Cinema in Tucson, and some internet friends were spreading the word. We all know that if someone bothers to make a documentary of your life, than you've really accomplished something. Well, actually it usually means that you had some really great friends and lots of photographs taken of you - but it helps if you actually did something relatively interesting...

Pancho is best known as the owner of the Happy Bottom Riding Club, and for those of you who are as dense as I am, that was the famous "hangout" of the guys with the "right stuff" stationed at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California. Chuck Yager, Jimmy Dolittle and Buz Aldrin all drank beer at her joint. She is credited with jump-starting the career of photographer
George Hurrel, who pretty much defined the 1930's Hollywood glam shot. She hung out with movie stars and famous people of all sorts.

Portrait of Pancho by George Hurrel

But, she also had a pretty darned interesting life, long before becoming the "Mother of Edwards Airforce Base". She was born an heiress, Florence Leontine Lowe. She wasn't keen on the role of women as seen in 1920's America, and shortly after her parents had passed on and she inherited the family fortune, she left her husband (Barnes) and joined a banana boat crew in Mexico. Her adventures in Mexico were where she earned the nickname "Pancho", which she maintained the rest of her life.

Returning to America in 1928, she decided to try out flying lessons. By 1930, she was breaking records set by other female aviators, including
Amelia Earhart. She worked as a stunt-pilot in the movies, which is when she began her Hollywood connections.

All this is pretty boring stuff compared to my usual pithy blog entries, I'll admit. Let's look at some of the more entertaining stories about Pancho:

1. Although she "left" her husband in 1928 to adventure, she was legally married to him until 1940. He was a reverand. While she was a pilot with a "barnstorming" show, she used to buzz his Sunday morning congregation.

2. Pancho was fond of saying, "When you have a choice, choose happy!"

3. Pancho was Lockheed's first female test pilot

4. One of the rules for "hostesses" at the Happy Bottom Riding club was "To be charming and pleasant to all guests, male or female. Don’t just go for the guy with the wavy hair."

5. In an early and entreprenurial recycling effort, Pancho obtained a contract to remove the food waste from the Army mess halls. Her ranch hands then cooked it into food for the pigs that were then slaughtered and sold back to the Army mess halls.

6. Pancho was an animal lover, and was constantly surrounded by dogs, cats, horses and livestock. Several pictures I have seen of her include her with famous celebrites and her dogs, with dirty paw prints all over everyone.

7. Pancho was inspired to learn to fly by memories of her Grandfather, Thaddeus Lowe, who was the Chief Aeronaut of President Abraham Linclon's Balloon Corps - essentially the first iteration of the existing Airforce. In later years, after the military evicted her from her ranch near Edwards by the airforce base, she used her family ties in her legal battle against Air Force, claiming "My grandfather founded the United States Air Force". She was eventually reinstated to her property and compensated over $300k.

Fun links for more info on Pancho, my new personal hero!

Tales from her friend Chuck Yager
The Wikipedia
And the documentary

Monday, August 3, 2009

Truck Farm

A wonderful idea for urban farmers.

"RUCK FARM is a Wicked Delicate film + food project. Combining green roof technology, organic compost + heirloom seeds, we are creating a living story about growing a little food in a big city. Each "episode" is a partial excerpt of a larger film project, slated for completion in fall 2009. Visit to learn more, and stay tuned!"

Perhaps there IS a way to make use of Nelson, Gary's 1965 Ford Pickup truck. I think it'd grow fantastic artichokes and tomatoes!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Gate to Hell Discovered in Turkmenistan...

Images taken from this web site prove it...

Okay, they're actually images of a place called Darvaza, or the "Burning Gates". Seems a 1950's Solviet drilling rig, searching for natural gas struck an underground cavern, resulting in a crater roughly 60 meters in diamatere and 20 meters deep. The natural gas is released in thousands of tiny vents all over the crater, and were set alight shortly after being discovered, as a safety measure. It has been burning ever since, filling the air with the smell of burning sulfer.

Pit BBQ anyone? All you need is a REALLY big grill and a couple thousand pounds of cow...

Whodda thought that the gates to the underworld would be found in a middle-eastern desert?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Where the Hell is Matt?

If you love travel and exotic locations, and if you need to spend a little time away from your latest spreadsheet or Indesign file, then you defintely need to find out where the hell Matt is.

I'm not going to go into rabid detail here, since, well, his site does it better than I ever could. I will however embed a video - the same one I posted on my Facebook page - and tell you that if you missed it on facebook, you need to watch it here. You need to because putting a smile on your face is my mission today, and this is sure to do it.

Of course, it will be followed by feelings of intense jealousy that YOU didn't get to go click your heels in all these exotic locales, but whatever. The smile was what I was after, and I can't be held liable for any after affects.

It has inspired me. I'm going to start not only throwing "the Wendy" wherever I go, but trying to get as many strangers as I can to do it with me when I'm in amazing places. May not be as entertaining as Matt's little dance, but it's something I can do to make the world a smaller place (and entertain myself in the process). Just imagine it...

The only thing better would be if I (like Matt) could find a corporate sponsor who supports my travel habit in the name of fun photos and videos for the internet.


Something else that I dug up in the course of making this blog entry. Very interesting - something I never knew that I absolutely needed to know!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Work on the King continues...

The latest on the evolution of the 62' Aristocrat Land Commander into a usable trailer...

Here's the new header that Gary made in place on the trailer. This piece not only keeps the walls up, but it also supports the ceiling members, so i't pretty key that it be intact. Of course, you remember the original, rotted and peeling piece, right?

Here's a close-up as good as I could get ot the way it attaches to the ceiling pieces. Can't really see how the groove works, though. Just too tight without removing the roof skin, which we'd rather avoid if we can.

Here's the new wall as it's getting framed out. The larger pieces run the length or width of the wall and hold everything up, the smaller ones are minor supports. When the new propane refrigerator was put in, these major framing members were simply cut and no additional support was provided. This is ultimately what caused the wall to sag.

The new supports are held on with biscuits and brads rather than the original metal strapping, hopefully making a more solid connection. We'll add the strapping, too, once the framing is done, and we'll likely add more/better insulation.

Here, G's put the skin back on because he realized that it was almost impossible to get the framing members in the right place without the skin as a reference. Since the skin's been removed a time or two already, it's not really "regular" anymore - so it takes a lot of tweaking to get everything to where it should be.

Here's the inside of that wall. You can see the large hole cut in the trailer for the refrigerator just under the window.

This is the wall that we took out to rebuild, just set against the opposite side of the trailer. All of the panneling for this wall will be replaced (you can see the corner of the replacement wood through the doorway).

The inside of the trailer/workshop. Gary's getting to pull out ALL of his cool tools and toys, not to mention buying a few more. Here's another look at the replacement panneling material purchased from Home Depot.

Here's the section of floor where the probelm refrigerator sat. If you can imagine, the skin was never quite correctly reinstalled, and this flooring edge was left somewhat exposed to the elements. It didn't quite rot away, but it was coming delaminated a bit. Nothing that about 50 staples into the structure below won't fix, right?

So, our analysis has come to 2 conclusions:

1. The Driver's side wall skin was removed at some time, most likely to install the propane refrigerator in the kitchen unit. Structural boards which made the wall a wall were cut without new supports being added. This alone would have compromised any integrity the weak little structure had in the first place. Then, the skin was replaced incorrectly using silicone sealant which leaked. The moisture from the leaky seal caused the header and footer to rot out - leaving what was left of the wall completely dependent upon a thin skin of aluminium for support. If you've ever stood on a soda can, you know what the result of this will be.

2. At some time, the rear driver's side corner sustained some sort of impact. This broke some of the framing, "scooted" other pieces out of alignment and also contributed to the leaking/rotting process. This is when the Bermuda Grass got in. Whether this made the aluminum can effect worse, or happened before it we can't really say. What we can say is that it means more demo, this time of the rear wall of the trailer:

However, what this seems to mean is the discovery of even more damage, since every piece we look in or under means more work!

Just a few fun images of what it's like living with the King in your back yard:

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Cause of Couscous and the Wha of Quinoa

Turning back to the original intent of the blog, at least briefly, as much for my own sanity as the endless entertainment of my loyal followers...

So, as I was whipping up a batch of my favorite backcountry breakfast, couscous porridge with cherries and almonds, I found myself in a very interesting discussion of the nature of couscous. Now, for those of you who think that an interesting conversation about couscous would be impossible - you're clearly just not that into food lore (and therefore much in need of this blog). This relative new comer to American cuisine has been a staple in northwestern Africa since before the 1200s. That's long enough to have a
lot of the very interesting cultural connections and associations that get foodies everywhere a twittering. I bet Alton Brown has done a show on it - and Andrew Zimmern probably considers it bland and passe (but he likes pink, so I'm not sure how much I trust his opinion).
First, contrary to popular opinion in the United States, couscous is not a grain. It is a pasta. A very, very small pasta made from semolina flour and water, much like spaghetti or macaroni. Traditionally (which is the new buzz word for "prior to global industrialization"), the pasta was made by rubbing the dough between your hands until the tiny pellets formed. The pellets were then coated in more flour to keep them separated and passed through a sieve which separates all of the bits which are still too small. Those are then re-rolled with more flour and water until the process is complete. It's a very labor intensive process - much like cleaning up after a husband or embroidering a blanket to be placed in a wrinkled pile in the corner - so it was most often left to women (being the most obvious choice for tasks that require extended focus and attention to detail). Women would gather in family groups, rolling couscous, steaming it, then setting it out in the sun to dry (sometimes for days), gossiping about what happened at the town well and complaining about their husband's foot fungi. It was much like making tamales in modern Mexico or the desert southwest - except that tamales don't bake in the sun and Latino men aren't as prone to foot fungus.

Second, also contrary to popular opinion here in the industrialized capitol of the world, couscous is not traditionally a "quick cook" food (as illustrated above). Now, this is how I first came to know the dish - the ease of cooking the couscous available in our grocery markets makes it perfect for lazy cooks or those who want quick carbs in the backcountry. Throw some couscous in a pot of hot water, wait 5 minutes and poof! You're done. Not so in that oh-so-forgotten traditional past. To properly prepare couscous, it was steamed as many as three times to achieve the desired light, fluffy texture - using a pot known as a couscousiere (what, a kitchen gadget I don't have! Oh, no!). In this two piece pot, you could prepare the stew that was generally served on top of the couscous in the bottom and the steam coming off would help to both cook and flavor your couscous. Multi-tasking at its finest. The multiple steaming process also meant you needed to reach in and handle the pasta again, this time while it was steaming hot, in order to separate it and achieve fluffiness. Steaming hot pasta and bare fingers. That's when women were women and men were terrified to talk back.

The couscous we buy here in the states has already been steamed and re-dried - so we are essentially only rehydrating the dish, rather than cooking it. Old hat to us backpackers - but I can see how some people never even see it coming... They think they're eating whole grains, which magically cook in almost no time into a soft, creamy texture that can absorb the flavor of nearly anything it accompanies.

For that, you really need Quinoa.

As this post is getting long (and probably dull), I'll leave most of the the story of quinoa as a teaser. However, to answer a brief debate I had some years ago with a friend - traditional tabbouleh is in fact made with couscous - as it is a dish which originated in the same region. Quinoa - while an excellent grain for this light salad of olive oil, parsley, mint, tomatoes and grain - is actually from South America - and was more likely originally accompanied by coca leaves and llama stew (which I've been told does not taste like chicken).

Couscous is, like most pastas, a carb-fest and probably not very good for you according to the recent high-fiber diet craze. Even "whole wheat" couscous is still relatively low in dietary fiber - though it isn't nearly as tough or chewy as it's whole grain Italian cousins. Also, unlike the Medditerranean varietals, couscous makes awesome breakfast food (particularly in Brazil - can you imagine that geographic tale!). There's even a website that claims (contrary to my info above) that couscous is the "secret to losing weight". People have also said that avocados are the secret to losing weight, but my waist is living proof of THAT little myth (mmmm- guacamole).

More fascinating facts from the world of couscous:
  • "Israeli couscous" is in fact not similar to couscous at all. It does not use semolina, and is baked. It bears a much closer resemblance to orzo, and is boiled and drained rather than steamed. I wonder if it's called Israeli couscous in Israel - or if like French Fries and Spanish Rice, nationals just shake their heads at our curious American naming habits...
  • Among Algerians, couscous is called ta'am, the word which—in the rest of the Arabic-speaking world—means simply "food."
  • A catering college in Tizi Ouzou, Algeria broke an unofficial Tunisian record by preparing the world's largest couscous in June 2004. The "Guinness Book of World Records" was on hand to ratify the record dish, enough to serve 22,000 people. The couscous contained 2,600kg of dry semolina, meat from 100 sheep and 1.5 tons of vegetables. Sounds like a batch that might have been made up for the Tunisian version of Chipotle, eh?

Links to some good recipes using couscous (other than my favorite porridge):