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March 12, 2008

Pickle Sickle


They're selling like hotcakes, about 20,000 a month, and word isn't even out on the street — yet.

That's gonna change shortly.

Bonny Wolf's front page story in today's Washington Post Food section blows the lid — as it were — off this up to now under the radar delectable from — where else? – deep in the heart of Seguin, Texas, and the restless, fertile mind of one John Howard, then a roller skating rink operator who, for the heck of it, started freezing leftover jarred pickle juice and selling it as Pickle Sickles.

Soon they were flying out of the concessions stand to the tune of 200-300 every Friday and Saturday night, to the point where he ran out of brine, bought a hydraulic press and began squeezing his own pickles.

And so was a business born.

Here's the inspiring Post story of how Howard — a plumber before he bought his roller rink — came to rule the world of frozen pickle juice, becoming so successful that he had to sell the rink "Because I just didn't have time to do both anymore."

    The Texas Treat With a Juicy Tale

    I should not have been surprised. I've spent countless hours at the Minnesota State Fair, and I lived in Texas for seven years. So I'm familiar with deep-fried pickles on a stick and with the independent thinking of the residents of the Lone Star State.

    Still, the Pickle Sickle caught me off guard. An ice pop made of frozen pickle juice doesn't sound like something people would be clamoring for. Then again, in an era when candy companies compete for bragging rights over whose flavor is the sourest, perhaps the appeal of a little pucker power makes sense.

    Sure enough, Pickle Sickles are selling at the rate of about 20,000 a month, mostly through the Internet. Who knew?

    John Howard knew, but that's because he created them. Though the degree of popularity has surprised him, Howard, 43, knew he was on to something when he began freezing leftover jarred pickle juice at his roller skating rink and arcade in Seguin, Texas, a year ago.

    The Web site for the Pickle Sickle plays up the product's "bizarre" and "crazy" aspects, but the idea actually isn't so strange. People in that part of the state — Seguin is about 35 miles from San Antonio — have always drunk pickle juice. "There are a lot of closet pickle drinkers in South Texas," Howard says. "We're trying to get everyone out of the closet."

    At trade shows, he says, people — generally over 50 — tell him they used to drink big swigs of pickle juice out of jars when they were kids. "Their moms would hit them over the head to get them to stop," he says.

    But freezing it? Howard got the idea from his daughter-in-law. She had eaten the frozen stuff as a child at church camp, where the counselors put the juice in ice cube trays with toothpicks.

    He was already selling pickles at the roller rink's snack bar, so he started to freeze his leftover pickle juice — really the brine from the pickle jars — and sell that, too. "We sold 200 to 300 every Friday and Saturday night," he says. Then they began to run out of pickle juice.

    Because they think big in Texas, Howard got a "giant hydraulic press" last October to process the pickles. "We're the first to squeeze our own pickle juice," he says. They squeeze about 10 gallons — about 150 pickles — at a time and have nothing left at the end but the skins. No more leftover brine: Pickle Sickles are made only from freshly pressed pickles.

    At the roller rink, 9- to 16-year-olds were the main Pickle Sickle customers. But older people like pickle juice, too. A Pickle Sickle rep in Southern California is trying to sell the product to assisted-living communities. "We have a weird demographic," Howard says. "It's either kids or people 50 and above."

    And pregnant women, naturally. (Pickles and ice cream. Think about it.)

    There are now two flavors: original and jalapeño. The original tastes just like a pickle. The jalapeño nearly took my head off. My 96-year-old father liked both.

    They tried cherry and lemon-lime at the rink but haven't yet put them on the market. "The kids loved the salty, vinegary cherry concoction," Howard says, but he prefers jalapeño.

    As he started to promote Pickle Sickles nationally, Howard got out of the roller rink business. "I just didn't have time to do both anymore," he says. Before buying the rink, Howard was a plumber. "I'm still trying to find my niche," he says.

    If purchased through the Internet (a box of 16 is $17.95 at www.picklesickle.com), the two-ounce packets come unfrozen and are shelf stable for six months. You just put them in the freezer. Howard says some people drink the unfrozen juice out of the package.

    There's a good possibility Pickle Sickles will be on ice cream trucks from New England to New Jersey this summer, Howard says. Outside of Texas, that is the area where Pickle Sickles have become most popular. Go figure.

    Besides on the Internet, Pickle Sickles sell through booster clubs, at H-E-B (Here Everything's Better) markets throughout Texas and in some schools. Yes, schools: six in Texas and one in Oklahoma.

    In January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the sale of Pickle Sickles in schools. Because, wouldn't you know it, Pickle Sickles are a health food. The frozen pickle pops, advertised as "a healthy alternative to sugary frozen pops," are fat-free and contain less than one gram of sugar. A Pickle Sickle has only three calories. The pickle pop promoters tout other health benefits. They quote an Arizona State University study showing that vinegar, such as that used in pickling, combats insulin spikes after a high-carb meal — useful information for diabetics. They also claim that pickling spices fight bacteria.

    Carol Johnston, chairwoman of the department of nutrition at Arizona State University and author of the study, has never eaten a Pickle Sickle. But researchers there have given them to study participants to test the insulin effect, and "it looks like it's working," she says. Although more data analysis is necessary, she says, frozen pickle juice may be a good way to get people to eat their vinegar.

    Which brings us to the so-called pickle juice game. In 2000, the Philadelphia Eagles played the Dallas Cowboys in the season opener in Dallas. The temperature was well over 100 degrees. The Eagles, however, appeared surprisingly refreshed and whomped the Cowboys, 41-14.

    Some credit for their victory was given to the pickle juice their trainer had them drink to stay hydrated and avoid cramps. Since then, pickle juice drinks have appeared on the market as sports aids. Proving that you can't fool a Texan twice, one juice is endorsed by Cowboys tight end Jason Witten.

    As food, pickle juice is good in just about everything, Howard says. I don't know if I'd go that far, but it's true that many Southern potato salad recipes call for it. My mother always saved the juice in the pickle jar and added cut-up carrots, celery sticks, cucumbers and other raw vegetables. After a couple of days of marinating they tasted pretty good.

    I've heard that pickle juice makes a good marinade for meat, improves bottled barbecue sauce, is nice in gazpacho and spices up a bloody mary. I've also been told it's good for a hangover and for azalea bushes.

    Howard recommends adding pickle juice to martinis, which makes sense, since a dirty martini calls for olive brine. Howard even cooks with pickle juice, making dishes such as his pickle pop lemon-dill chicken: chicken breast, a two-ounce unfrozen pickle pop (to deglaze the pan), fresh-squeezed lemon juice, fresh dill and butter. Capers are optional.

    The briny nectar by itself, of course, is the purest expression of the form. But if it tastes exactly like a dill pickle, why go to the trouble of freezing pickle juice? "Because it's a heckuva lot more fun to do it our way," Howard says.



16 for $17.95.

Here's a video of what happened when a group of kids tried Pickle Sickles at the behest of the Washington Post's crack food section research team.

Bonus: listen — free! — to "The Pickle Song," official song of the Pickle Sickle.

You can even sing along, since they've kindly furnished the catchy lyrics.

March 12, 2008 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Luggage Spanx


Think outside the body space.

From the website:

    Luggage Hugger

    Luggage Huggers are the fun, colorful way to express your style and identify your bag.

    They are stretchy fabric bands that pull over your suitcases to make them easy to identify on the luggage carousel.


    • Easily ID your bag and make a fashion statement at the same time

    • Stop wandering around the luggage carousel

    • Easy to see from a distance

    • Unify mismatched luggage

    • Coordinate travel groups

    • Weight: 2 oz

    • Spandex



Blue or Red.

Small (Fits bags measuring 38"–50" around): $12.85.

Large (Fits bags measuring 56–82" around): $14.85.

March 12, 2008 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Caution: Crocodiles


The sign pictured above is real.

It can be seen at the St. Lucia crocodile sanctuary in South Africa.

You could look it up.

Better forward this post instanter to head durtbag Erin Atherton 'cause it is so up her alley it's not even funny.

March 12, 2008 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

iPod Electric Guitar — So you want to be a rock 'n roll star


"Just get an electric guitar take some time and learn how to play."

From the website:

    Play-By-Ear iPod® Electric Guitar

    This 3/4-scale six-string electric guitar connects to your iPod or other MP3 player and plays your music from its built-in battery-powered 4" speaker, allowing you to play along untethered to an amplifier.

    The 21-fret guitar has a solid basswood body, maple neck and rosewood fingerboard for optimal tone generation; a truss rod allows you to adjust string action for easier chording.

    It employs precision machine heads and a single-coil pickup and has a volume control knob and standard 1/4" output that allows it to be plugged into a standard amplifier, if desired.

    Includes guitar strap, digital tuner, cables, plectrum, and carrying case.

    Includes one 9-volt battery that provides six hours of operation.

    A headphone jack allows for silent practice.

    36"L x 12"W x 3-1/4"D.


$199.95 (iPod not included).

March 12, 2008 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Who you gonna believe? You, or your lying eyes?


David Colman's superb March 2, 2008 New York Times story/interview with French-born movie director Michel Gondry (above) goes into my permanent file, it's so thought-provoking.

The piece follows.

    Does the Eye of the Artist Ever Wink?

    We like to think that between the outside and inside worlds, there is a simple, impartial one-way window called the eye.

    But a simple demonstration will show you — there is a good one at blindspottest.com — that our brains and eyes have a penchant for modifying reality to fit our preconceptions of it. Yes, there is a camera lens attached to the optic nerve, but there’s a projector whirring away in there as well.

    Most of us discount this fact, preferring to see ourselves as totally objective. (Ahem: see “projection.”) But some people take a more imaginative view. Michel Gondry, the French-born director whose latest film, “Be Kind Rewind,” is about a pair of filmmakers remaking Hollywood classics on a 99-cent-store budget, has his own idea what “visionary” means.

    Every day, Mr. Gondry, a charming mix of amateur and auteur, tries to see something as something else. It is a defiantly unrealistic exercise very much in keeping with the childlike romanticism that has defined his work, which includes Levi’s commercials, art exhibitions, YouTube shorts and Bjork videos, as well as films.

    “I look at something, and then I scroll through the shapes in my mind until I imagine what it could be,” he explained. “Your brain is very creative. It makes up all sorts of meanings and shapes. We build up our reality from very little information.”

    This process even includes a delete button. A nearly dead plant in Mr. Gondry’s East Village apartment resembles, sadly, just that. “I just don’t see it,” he said, looking at it.

    In other words, he sees what he chooses, whether it is a conscious choice or an unconscious one, as illustrated by a curious memento. On a flight from Paris to New York a year ago, he was served a piece of bread [below].


    And while it was most certainly the end of a baguette, he could see only one thing: the breast of his former girlfriend.

    This is the same former girlfriend around whom, in 2006, Mr. Gondry had constructed an art show of relationship souvenirs at Deitch Projects, where his current show, a make-your-own-movie companion piece to “Be Kind Rewind,” is up. (You might think the affair was also an inspiration for his film “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” which won an Oscar for its screenplay, but Mr. Gondry said no.)

    “I noticed that it had an unusual shape, and I started to eat it,” he said of the piece of bread. “And then it reminded me of her.”

    So he took it home safe, and has kept it ever since, on a shelf.

    “It’s a piece of bread,” he said. “I’m not going to cry over it. But there’s some sadness. It was a breakup that was never really explained. There wasn’t an argument.”

    He does not really fetishize it, he said. But he can’t throw it out, either. Besides being an absurd yet tragic memento of his doomed flight on Air Love, it is also the most pure realization of Mr. Gondry’s double-duty approach to reality.

    “Everything has the possibility to have a different use,” he said, adding that this principle guided the art direction of “Be Kind Rewind.”

    “Sometimes,” he said, “when you’re forced to make things from scratch, you recycle. Like the famous Picasso bull made out of a bicycle seat.” And as this tale suggests, if you are short a movie projector, just use your eyes. Be assured, you will see what you want.

March 12, 2008 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Batter Blaster: Organic Point-and-Spray Pancakes-in-a-Can — 'Just wrong on so many levels'


That's the long and short of it according to Oakland accountant Beth Terry in her blog review yesterday of this remarkable new entry into the food-in-a-spray can space.

Others differ.

Consider that over 400,000 cans have been sold since the product appeared last fall.

Here's Michelle Locke's fair and balanced Associated Press story with the light and fluffy details.

    Pressurized Batter Blaster cans provide streams of pancake mix

    You want pancakes, but the idea of adding water to powder and stirring it around just seems like too much effort. Enter Batter Blaster, the pancake you just point and spray.

    Gastronomic genius? Or sign of the apocalypse? It all depends on how you feel about really fast food.

    For Nate Steck, part of the two-man team that developed Batter Blaster, the product is a way to put something hot and tasty on the table of people who have lost touch with the most important meal of the day.

    "If you sit down with your family in the morning, you can cook these pancakes so quick,"€ he said in an interview in Batter Blaster'€™s new offices in a south-of-Market alley in San Francisco.

    "You can actually give the house that smell of home cooking," Steck said. "You'€™re not burning the frozen waffles in the toaster. This heats up the house. The kids like it; they feel like they'€™re spending some time with the family."€

    The contents are pressurized, and the can has a nozzle similar to a whipped cream can, which can unleash artistic aspirations in the way of animal, geometric and letter-shaped pancakes.

    Preparation: Shake the can firmly before spraying. Cleanup: Rinse the nozzle under running water after using.


    The product, which is organic, comes more than a century after the launch of the first convenience pancake product, a powdered mix that eventually would be called Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix.

    And Batter Blaster begs comparison to other ultra-convenience foods, such as Easy Cheese, that staple of dorm room soirees, and Reddi-Wip, the ubiquitous canned whipped cream.

    Some flip for the pray-and-bake breakfasts.

    "They'€™re fantastic,"€ says Keith Bussell, a Los Angeles software developer who picked up a can of Batter Blaster on a lark and was won over by the ease of making just one or two pancakes sans stirring. "€œIt'€™s not an approximation of pancakes. They'€™re really good pancakes,"€ he said.

    Others don'€™t.

    "€œThat is just wrong on SO MANY LEVELS!"€ Oakland accountant Beth Terry wrote in her blog review of the Batter Blaster.

    In a phone interview, Terry said her big issue with the product, which she has no plans to try, is that it comes in a can, which she said takes an energy and resource toll even though it is recyclable. "€œIt'€™s not even necessarily about slow food," she said. "€œPancakes are not slow."

    Steck says the idea is to provide convenience "€œbut it'€™s also about being with a group, being with family. It'€™s not the end of the world. It'€™s just a better world, I think."€

    Batter Blaster is available at a number of grocers, including Albertsons. A single can, which makes more than two dozen 4-inch pancakes, sells for around $5 to $6.

    So far, more than 400,000 cans have sold. Some of those buyers appear to have been new to the kitchen. One complaint that came in through customer feedback was that the pancakes were sticking to the pan.

    Apparently they didn'€™t know about that other kitchen corner-cutter, canned cooking spray.



After watching this CNET video demonstrating these new wave spray pancakes, I must say it looks so easy even a TechnoDolt could do it.

Put me down for a can.

I wonder what would happen if you just sprayed some on the microwave platter and then nuked it....

There's a smash — perhaps on many levels — hit YouTube video for the taking if ever there was one.

March 12, 2008 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Helpful Hints from joeeze: 3 things I've learned about bathrooms over the years


Hey, for a minute there I thought this feature had taken a powder.

Good to see it again, whoever's responsible for stuff like that.

Wait a minute....

"Help the bombardier!"

"I'm the bombardier, I'm all right."

Got it.


Where was I?

Mushrooms, yeah, things I've learned from mushrooms.

That's not it?


Okay, restart.

1) If at all possible when remodeling or building, put a drain not just in the shower/tub enclosure but in the floor as well.

Because the question is not if but when your toilet will overflow.

Trust me on this.

And even if your toilet never, ever overflows, and your — yo, joe, can't say that here, you know better... well, you know what I was gonna say, don't you? — it'll be a lot easier to just hose down your bathroom floor every now and again to get it spiffy, eat-off-it clean than getting down on your hands and knees once in a blue moon to scrub it as best you can until you get tired and disgusted with the whole project.

That's when you're glad to have a small bathroom.

But I digress again.

2) If you choose a tile enclosure for your shower/tub, make the tiles as large as you can tolerate esthetically.

Consider that 12" x 12" tiles have only 1/3 the seams to get grungy looking compared to 4" x 4" tiles.

I wish I could redo my shower again.

The people who rebuilt it from the rotted wood framing in did a spectacular job: I've got no quarrel with their very fine workmanship, ten years later.

Cost me about $2,500 for the job, as I recall.

Money well spent, considering the miserable state it was in previously.

But scrubbing those myriad grouted lines gets oh so old and I'm only just getting started, besides my arms getting really tired and the whole thing becoming such a bore.

I might even bag the tiles next time around.

3) When you're remodeling or building, make certain to put in a ceiling vent fan, even if the bathroom has a window/windows.

Because guess what?

Sometimes it gets really cold or hot outside and you don't want to open the window after you've steamed up the bathroom.

And make sure to put the fan right above the shower/tub enclosure rather than outside it.

Think about it: Where's the bulk of the steam want to go?

Straight up — so help it.

And while you're making plans for that fan, make certain it's really powerful and that the vent pipe is plenty large, not some dinky broomstick-sized thing that can't carry jack.

Put a cover on the pipe top so large creatures don't make their way down to join you in the tub.

Don't even think about venting it into the attic.

And that's all I have to say about bathrooms.

Full disclosure: This post was composed while listening to endless repeats of The Who's "Magic Bus," on the "Live at Leeds" album.

Truly one of the all-time great tracks, especially where Roger Daltrey starts laughing in the middle of the song after he says, "Too much."

"Well you can't have it."

March 12, 2008 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Table Shirt — by Fernando Brizio


"No need to worry about getting something on your shirt."

Two sizes: 150cm x 190cm; 165cm x 165cm.

(59" x 75"; 65" x 65").

100% cotton.


March 12, 2008 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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