Thursday, August 11, 2016

Coulrophobia! Or, My Dinner with Bozo.

Coulrophobia is the technical term for the fear of clowns.  Creepy, evil clowns.  
It has long been my firm belief that everyone suffers from at least a touch of this phobia. If you deny it, just imagine yourself face to face with an actual clown. That's right. The culmination of all the dark imaginings of the netherworld standing right in front of you. Possibly, honking a little horn. Forced to stare into its soulless eyes and garishly painted grin, emotions WILL stir within you. These can range anywhere from slightly unnerved to bone-chillingly terrified. You may also feel the urge to curl up in a fetal position, whimper, or smack that stupid horn out of his hand. These are all completely natural responses.
So, even if you are not completely horrified by clowns, there's one thing we can all agree on and that is that they are evil. Without a doubt. E-vil.
Not only are they evil, but many people are repulsed by their very existence. Which is why it is so bewildering to me that clowns feature so prominently in vintage advertising. To my eye, they were just as disturbing then as they are now. Perhaps, even more so. The universal presentation of them as harmless, benign entertainment for children (thank you, by the way, Stephen King for dispelling that myth) is absolutely chilling. Consider the following:

Let's begin with Ronald McDonald. You may think you are familiar with this icon of fast food, but take a look at how he looked in the beginning:
That is Willard Scott in 1963 portraying the first Ronald McDonald.  Tell me this will not haunt your dreams forever. I mean, what the actual hell? Run. Seriously. Go. He's right behind you.  

And what about Jack In the Box restaurants that forced you to speak into a horrific clown mouth to place your order?  Little did they suspect that...
Oh, yes.  Yes, he will.  In your nightmares.  And he will tell you to do awful, unspeakable things.

Thankfully, both Ronald McDonald and the Jack in the Box clown could be avoided by simply not patronizing these fast food establishments.  Surely, consumers would then be safe from the menacing scourge of random clowns, right? Wrong. 

You better hope Mr. Krinkles never runs out of cereal or he is coming to eat your soul.

Never let Derange-O the Clown get into the liquor. You wouldn't like him on the hard stuff.

There are no words to convey the shudder-worthiness of this particularly gruesome clown. I am convinced, if provoked, it could unhinge its jaw and swallow me whole. And, it's offering me candy.  Excuse me while I run off screaming into the night.
Behold the foundation for a lifelong fear of clowns...and luncheon meat.  There's nothing like the sound of children screaming when they see this lurking in their sandwiches. 

Camels. It's the cigarette preferred by clowns to relax and unwind after they have successfully harvested your soul.

Furthermore, heaven help you if you were a kid planning a birthday party.  Clowns were pervasive and, for some reason, the mothers of yesteryear seemed absolutely convinced that clowns were the pinnacle of childhood delights. Why, you might ask? Well, I strongly suspect clown mind control. What else could explain these?
No one ever chose the snowy owl option.  The clowns made sure of that.

Mother was very, very careful to arrange the table exactly as the clown had specified. She knew if she didn't, he would not be pleased. And then, the accordion would start playing and her world would go dark. "Not again", she thought to herself as she adjusted the parsley. "Never again." 
She would later regret the jaunty uni-brow and nontraditional cherry tomato nose. The clown was not amused. Not. At. All.
From certain angles, the cupcakes seemed to take on an eerie, almost sinister appearance. Their very presence on the buffet table cast a pall of unease over the entire gathering. The party guests tried to conceal their apprehension, although they all felt a growing sense of urgency. They knew they had to eat the clowns before things took a turn for the worse and they found themselves on the menu.

Mercifully, in recent years, clowns seem to have fallen out of favor as both birthday party centerpieces and advertisement darlings. Now, they seem to be relegated to horror movies, where their true faces are on display for the world to see.  But, we must remain ever vigilant, lest they return.  So, if anyone ever says to you, "I think clowns are cool" in a hipster, trendy, retro sort of way, just slap them. Slap them hard. Because clowns are no laughing matter.

Monday, August 8, 2016

On The Menu: Summer Cooking Adventures, Part Three: Zucchini Bread

I confess, I have always wanted my own backyard garden.  It's true and yet, my tendency to kill and maim every plant I have ever tried to grow had made me somewhat apprehensive. This sort of venture just did not seem tailored to my skill set.  Last year, however, a bit of research suggested that zucchini were easy to grow. "If you're a beginning gardener," the articles said, "zucchini are for you." There was even a strong suggestion that this endeavor COULD NOT FAIL.  And, in a sense, they were right.  Planting a few zucchini plants in a small patch in my backyard made me feel all the feels I would imagine a seasoned backyard grower experiences.  I was living off the land. I felt successful from the first watering and the plants thrived. In fact, they seemed to multiply at an alarming rate. Before I knew it, they were spreading out of their designated area. At a certain point, I felt there was a real chance that they would become sentient and I would wake one morning to find them knocking on my door announcing plans to take over the world.  After which, they would suck out my brain, turn me into a pod person, and force me to do their evil zucchini bidding. The final yield was impressive.  I truly had no idea what to do with the initial crop of zucchini, let alone the multiple bumper crops.  I remember, after what seemed like the fifteenth harvest, quietly weeping and asking, "why won't you die already?" I dreamt of ways to "do away" with the seemingly unkillable plants, some of which involved clandestine visits to the patch under the cover of darkness armed with shears, hefty bags, and desperate rage. When questioned later about the garden's destruction, I planned to blame the carnage on a roving gang of raccoons. Truth be told, there were simply not enough recipes.  I sauteed, diced, chopped, and added them to every meal.  I gave them away as gifts. I considered standing on my corner with an armful of zucchini and flagging down passing cars begging them to take the excess off my hands. Or, attempting to toss them into their open windows when they slowed at the corner stop sign.  Then, I found this recipe.  I realize recipes for Zucchini Bread are common, but this one is just amazingly good.  The top gets golden brown and has a slight crunch while the inside is moist and flavorful every single time. It is one of the few recipe cards from my mother's collection that has made it into regular rotation.  Best of all, the loaves freeze well so you can enjoy the zucchini-ness for months to come.  So, I baked away my zucchini invasion.  I'm even considering planting zucchini again in the future.  But, probably not.