Saturday, October 31, 2009

Field Report: Albino Asparagus Ice Cream!

This Halloween's spooky tale is from my friend Logan about his trip to Germany. Enjoy!

When it comes to ice cream, there really isn't much to be afraid of unless, of course, we all scream for ice cream to cool the burning acid a mysterious killer dumped on us while we were trying to run away. But even in that case the ice cream is a cool, comforting, life saving substance. I have probably only been frightened by ice cream once, but is because of that that experience that Brad and Marisa have asked me to to supplement their regular blogly offerings with this frightening tale of cold, creamy horror.

It all began in Erlangen, Germany, in the early part of the decade when I was visiting a friend of the family with my German grandmother. That person was Dieter, an Engineer for Siemens corporation. So while I was waxing my mustache and buttoning my leiderhosen, Dieter suggested something that made my monocle pop out, “Would you like to go to the most popular Ice Cream Parlor in Erlangen?” Of course I would like to go to an ice cream parlor. Germany is dotted with many little Italian Ice cream places that are either run by Italians or Turks, but either way they are probably going to have some awesome lemon ice cream.

We arrived at Eishaus Erlangen in time to stand in line while Deiter explained that Eishaus is famous for it's constant rotation of interesting flavors. I learned that Eishaus is run by Germans, but they serve Italian-style ice cream. When we got inside I was terrified by but magnetically drawn to one flavor: Spargle. Spargle means asparagus, but it's not the green asparagus that we are familiar with, it's white asparagus. White, anemic, albino asparagus that has been covered in dirt to prevent any exposure to the sun. I shuddered at the thought. Apparently Germany has so many mad scientists that they are going into the ice cream business. I wanted to take refuge in one of the other, more traditional flavors, like Stracciatella or tempting flavors like Chocolate Struessel, but I knew this was my only chance, so I went for the glory.

The asparagus ice cream turned out to be not nearly as bad as I expected. Imagine cream of asparagus soup but sweet, and not quite as vegetab-ly. The flavor was actually very delicate, I even detected some floral notes. I felt a little like a judge on Iron Chef. So the moral of the story is: If you face your fears, you can gain twenty pounds while vacationing in Germany. Next time I'm going to try their Camembert flavor.

Projectile Pie

My fascination with pumpkins extends beyond gastronomy into aerodynamics. Each year, during the Pumpkin Challenge, I also read up on the popular past time punkin chunkin, or its Anglicized name pumpkin launching. The premise of this sport is to construct a device that flings pumpkins the farthest. Many competitions offer separate categories for slingshots, cannons, trebuchets and catapults.

I first heard of the fine sport of pumpkin launching, or punkin’ chunkin’, from my Uncle John, who was lucky enough to attend the 2005 contest in Marion, Illinois. He remarks, "The contraptions designed by engineers, Cub Scout Troops, drunk guys in garages, and serious pumpkin aeronautical professionals inspired the imagination of the crowd. The biggest cannon shot a pumpkin over 4000 feet! And some of the "sling shots" backfired and nearly bombarded their designers."

What is perhaps most exciting is that several physics classes in the country have embraced the sport, participating in competitions and creating their own. Yesterday, I sojourned to the Illinois Institute of Technology, my granddad's alma mater, and stood in the rain with the science geeks (and what I believe was a high school physics field trip) to witness IIT's 5th annual competition. Most of the 8 machines were trebuchets, but there were a few others including The Robotics Team's machine that utilized springs. While the weather did nothing to deter scientists from the noble pursuit of destroying stuff, sadly it did handicap the competition, particularly the loading of the pumpkin launching devices. At first, things were somewhat anticlimactic with several of the machines simply plopping the pumpkin a foot in front of their respective machines. One professor remarked loudly for the crowd to not worry; the very same students that made the failing machines would soon be graduates making our nation's bridges! Thankfully, one trebuchet did fling a pumpkin 185 feet! All in all, it was a fun time capped with free apple cider.

The sport appears to be celebrated all across the United States. Next year, search for the closest competition near you! Or go straight to the top: The World Championships have been held in Delaware since 1986!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ice Cream is not punk. (Part 2)

Once again, punks are opposed to having ice cream associated with their image. The Sex Pistols are threatening to sue a London ice cream maker for using the tagline "God Save the Cream."

While in London two weekends ago, I went to Selfridges, temporary home of the Icecreamists. I was drawn in by their contemporary design like a mall punk to hair dye and Chuck Taylor's. But it was all fashion, in the name of selling an old product at an inflated price. (Really, Johnny Rotten could just as easily open up another ridiculous lawsuit by claiming they stole his business model.) My choice: bypass the Icecreamists for the Oddono's in Selfridges food court.

(Thanks to my brother Brian for the link.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pumpkin Challenge Off-Season

You may be wondering what I’ve been up to in the off-season. Besides the nibbles Rebecca, last year’s MVPP (Most Valuable Pumpkin Provider), continued to bring me, I also ate a number of pumpkin treats that have never been featured on the annual list of foods consumed during the pumpkin challenge. For example, pumpkin fudge, pumpkin spice trail mix, my mom's delicious pumpkin waffles and even *gasp!* pumpkin pie. (How I went three years of doing this without eating pumpkin pie during the allotted time frame, I have no idea.)

This year has been slow-going, so if you're in the race you could very well beat me this year!