Book Heaven

Where the world of books and life intersect

Location: South Amboy, New Jersey

I am deeply involved in trying to solve the discrepancy between being interested in zen and trying to acquire all the things I've been accumulating

Sunday, March 26, 2006

My Kingdom (and Ethics) For A Donut

Another memorable day has passed in the history of the three-ring literary circus known as dollar book day at the Strand. This past Friday's performance was, as usual, not without incident. A newcomer to the fray got a bit too close to the starting line when the gun sounded and while he apparently escaped serious physical injury, the psychic trauma he suffered will no doubt last for quite awhile. At the Strand, you are not allowed to go near the table when they are setting out the new dollar books. The most hopeless of the participants (I number myself among this group) loiter as close as possible, trying to memorize where the choice books are being laid down for what will certainly be a very short rest. When the Strand employees step away from the table, all hell breaks loose as about a dozen obviously deranged book dealers and collectors attack the table like a flotilla of famished pirahnas. Well, this poor unsuspecting soul got caught in the onslaught and spent the better part of a half hour just staring in amazement at the books flying off the table, muttering over and over again to an onlooking Strand employee, "I've never seen such agression before." He later appended his statement, "They're not even great books." So mesmerized was he by this spectacle that he only tentatively picked at the edges of the battlefield. He later made a generous $2 offer for a copy of a book of Lord Nelson that somebody had snatched up before he could get to it. The crowd ignored him. Feeling sorry for him, I later let him go through my basket, offering him anything he wanted. I have since noticed that he possesses a much more refined taste than I do, and I would do well to cultivate a bit of that discernment myself. In truth, they're really not great books -- they're just too cheap to resist!

I found a rather interesting book this time out. From Voodoo to Viagra: The Magic of Medicine is a collection of "37 Uplifting Essays From a Doctor's Bag of Tricks." Oscar London, M.D. is a guy I'd love to have for my doctor. The pseudonym of an internist in Berkeley, California, London is the author of three previous books of humorous medical essays, including one titled Kill As Few Patients As Possible. I was won over by reading only one essay in Voodoo -- Krispy Kremes: New Arthritis Wonder Drug? Written in an age before Krispy Kremes were easy to obtain, the good doctor recounts his two year obsession with his desire to taste a Krispy Kreme doughnut, confessing his willingness to do anything to obtain a box of "warm" Krispy Kremes, including making a pill peddling pharmaceutical salesman's dream come true when he offers to prescribe the salesman's arthritis pill to his next 100 patients in return for the delivery of said doughnuts. His justification for this apparent ethical transgression -- "the drug has practically no side effects and, more likely than not, the next hundred people to walk through my door will have arthritic symptoms out the wazoo, so to speak."

It brought to mind a doughnut story of my own. About ten years ago I was in that bastion of gourmet delight, Dean & DeLuca, when I noticed a display case filled with $2 doughnuts. These were no ordinary overpriced doughnuts though. They were veritable works of art -- exotically flavored beauties no doubt handmade with loving care. I didn't try one that day but later found out that they were indeed handmade and delivered by a guy on a bike. Some years later I saw them featured on a show on The Food Network and it was at this point that I mentioned them to my best friend Tim. Uncharactistically, he didn't suggest that we jump in his car and go over to New York at that very moment to sample them. Before we could act on this doughnut quest, he moved to Florida and once again I forgot about the doughnuts. That is, until another couple of years had passed and one day he confessed that on a business trip to New York, he had paid a trip to this doughnut den while neglecting to call me to accompany him. He recounted in excruciating detail how he had stood in line with the other doughnut devotees, some of whom had no doubt traversed entire continents to share the experience. He bought a half dozen of the beauties and stood off to the side taking a bite of each before tossing the rest in the trash, while the whole line of stunned people watched this spectacle, wondering if the doughnuts weren't really all they were cracked up to be. My friend assured me they were heavenly little creations and that he couldn't trust himself to eat more than a bite of each.

I just went to the website of this doughnut pusher and if you are so inclined you can visit it as well. The address is I also found a review on another website:

  • I tried the white peach donut and nearly fell over with bliss.

Okay, here's a list of some of the flavors that they've unleashed so far:

Our flavors are always fresh and seasonal. We make new flavors when inspired by seasons, holidays, people and just about everything else! Here is a list of just some of the flavors we've been making throughout the years:

Poppy Seed
Rosewater (with fresh rose petals)
Powdered Maple Sugar
Banana with Pecan
Yankee Donut with blueberry pin stripes

As for me I still don't think I could bring myself to eat a doughnut -- at least as long as they're still fried. Maybe if somebody finds a way to bake them like Guiltless Gourmet chips. Until then I'll have to be content to look at my copy of The Donut Book. Actually maybe this is a book that I can now get rid of. If I could find it that is.

Friday, March 10, 2006

A Glass A Day

Dedicated as I am to maintaining my arterial health, I've taken to drink the requisite glass of wine a day, though I am not especially fond of the stuff. Of more interest to me is the literature on the subject. Possessed as I am of a tin palate (a blessing actually) I am easily amused by most of the wine reviews I read. Though there is a 100% certainty I'll never try any of the wines mentioned in Parker's Wine Buyer's Guide 6th Edition (Simon & Schuster, 2002), I couldn't resist purchasing this book when it turned up at a discount price at Costco. Originally published at $60, it's unlikely to sell well at Costco even at a $11.99 remainder price since most of the wines discussed are from 2000 or earlier and no doubt quite pricey.

One can turn to most any page and find interesting flavors that Parker can detect in these no doubt very complex wines. There is little doubt that Parker has the most sensitive taste of any living being, but I'm not sure of some of these flavors -- quartz, stones, asphalt, gravel, tar, chalk, and buttered popcorn (to name just a few of the odder variants).

In my own case, I decided that in the interest of enhancing the elasticity of my arteries (what wine will supposedly do for you) I'd at least make an effort to find something I liked even if I couldn't detect all these fabulous tasting features. And so I started buying up various wines and pitted them against each other, eliminating the loser while letting the winner go on to fight another worthy candidate. I set $20 as the upper limit for a bottle and was only a little surprised that price had almost nothing to do with likeability. After almost a year of this I was truly shocked (but happy) to find that my favorite wine sold for the pauperly sum of $6.49 a bottle. The wine is Rosemount Estate Shiraz Cabernet and it vanquished everything in sight including a couple of higher priced Rosemount wines.

I may have to finish reading Elin Mc Coy's The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker Jr. and the Reign of American Taste (Harper Collins, 2005) to see if there is any hope of training my seemingly simple taste buds. I read a few chapters of the book and found it rather interesting but as usual got sidetracked by another book.