Murkin Food

After the post about my love for British foods a couple days ago, I received a few snarky emails which can be summarized by:  “Okay, Immigrant Guy:  tell us what American  foods you like, then.”

There are many, many  foods that have captured my fancy since The Great Wetback Episode Of 1986.  In fact, so much have they grown on me that when I’m Over There for a while, I actually say, “Good grief — all this Brit / Euro food is fine, but I could really do with a plate / bowl / truckload of ___ right now!”

In no specific order these are my favorites (and with thanks to the locals who introduced them to me):

Honey Nut Cheerios.  I needed something  to take over from the (American-style) over-sweetened Frosted Flakes as my favorite cold breakfast cereal, and Honey Nuts did the trick.  When the Son&Heir was still a weeny and I used to give him a baggie of the stuff to eat in his car seat on the back seat, I’d pour myself a baggie as well.  (Thanks, Maryann.)

BBQ.  I grew up eating barbecued (“braaivleis”) meat in South Africa, but it wasn’t BBQ — those chunks of smoked meat dipped in sweet or tangy sauce.  Pulled pork, brisket, pork bellies, Elgin sausage, spare ribs, whatever:  put a plateful in front of me, and keep your hands away from my face.  (Thanks, Cassie.)

Nachos.  Melt some grated mixed cheeses over a pile of hamburger/chili, beef- or chicken-covered nacho chips, toss a few jalapeño pepper slices on top (approximately one slice per mouthful), and you can forget about any conversation till the plate’s done.  And if there’s a side of freshly-made guacamole and a frozen margherita… well, dayum.  (Thanks, Brenda.)

Potato skins. When I first read about these things on a menu, I burst out laughing, thinking that they were literally potato skins — i.e. peelings.  So for a laugh, I ordered them.  Yikes.  Hollowed-out baked potatoes filled with melted cheese and covered with crispy bacon bits.  Two plates of those and a few (okay, six) beers, and I was a goner.  (Thanks, Linda.)

Fajitas. Chunks of marinated chicken / skirt steak, slathered with pico de gallo, all sizzling on a hot iron plate.  I discovered this stuff during a side trip to San Antonio back in 1985, and as I recall, it was about the second or third meal I ordered when I arrived in Austin the following year.  Wrapped in a soft flour tortilla:  Mexican shwarmas.  (Thanks, Karen).

Clam chowder.  First tried this on my U.S. “scouting” trip in 1985, in Newport RI, and by “tried” I mean had a mouthful of someone else’s because the thought of clams… ugh.  Then… well, never mind that “cup” bullshit;  I ordered a whole bowl, and was hooked forever.  Now I only have it in New England because I’ve become a “chowdah” snob (although Earl’s in Plano’s Legacy West district does a decent bowl, too).  And never mind those silly little cracker things… how about served in a boule  loaf?  (Thanks again, Maryann.)

Lobster rolls.  I’d eaten Cape Rock lobster in South Africa, of course, but never on a bread roll with seafood sauce, spiced mayo or melted butter.  Yummy.  My only criticism is that New Englanders eat the lovely stuff on a lousy hot dog bun — are you kidding me, when Portuguese rolls are available everywhere?  Toast one of those… and you can make mine a footlong (as long as I can call my bank manager first).  (Thanks, Hope.)

Streaky bacon.  Or as Murkins call it, “bacon”.  I grew up eating back  bacon (Brit style, kinda like Canadian bacon) and not “belly” bacon (as found in the U.S.), and I like both:  the pork-y, savory back bacon and the crisp, fatty streaky bacon.  But Murkin bacon with just a hint of syrup… stop me before I eat again.  (Thanks, Laura.)

and finally:

Hostess Twinkies. To call this gooey confection a “snack” is to slander snack foods;  eating one of these is childish gluttony par excellence — and then you have to have the second  one in the so-called “snack pack”.  Good grief:  no wonder our kids are clinically obese, if this is what we put in their lunch boxes.  Not that I’m envious, or anything.  (And for those silly people who might say that Twinkies aren’t a meal:  clearly, you’ve never eaten a ten-pack in one sitting, as I did in NYFC in September 1982.)  And no thanks to anyone:  I discovered these bad boys all by myself.

I had to write this post immediately after a big breakfast, otherwise I’d have been in trouble.

Feel free to add your favorite Murkin foods, in Comments.

No More Nikon least, when it comes to their scopes, that is.

I never used many Nikon scopes — from memory, I only ever owned two — and I don’t think they were ever a force in the scope business, so this doesn’t strike me as big news.  I suspect that Nikon weren’t making much money in that department, despite their price premium over other brands, and as their camera business is probably under strain because of the ubiquity of phone cameras, this seems to be purely a business decision.

That said, I would point Loyal Readers to the Nikon Black FX1000 model, which I have  used before, and which was excellent:  clear, rugged and easy to use in the field.  Consider these two:  4-16x50mm and 6-24x50mm (don’t necessarily buy right now… just monitor their prices in the near future and if they dip substantially, buy either of them without hesitation).


I’ve enjoyed Natalie Solent’s writing over at the Samizdatian lair for well over a decade, and this latest one of hers is no disappointment.  The actual topic is some MEGO (my eyes glaze over) piece of political arcana called “Tactical Voting Websites” or some such rubbish, but it was her description of the ultimate microwave oven (seriously) which got me going — a microwave which she bought for her father, who didn’t want anything complicated or he wouldn’t use it.  Here are its technical specs:

It had two dials, How Hot and How Long.

Compare that to her own modern one which does everything (badly) and has features which she has never used, and that probably puts her in the company of just about, well, everyone in the world.

I would buy one of her father’s microwave ovens in a heartbeat, as long as it had one teeny-weeny additional feature:  the 30-second one-touch full-strength blaster — but I wouldn’t cry bitter tears if it didn’t.

You know what’s coming, don’t you?  Compare and contrast:

On the left:  useless shit that over-complicates your life and costs far too much, all while achieving pretty much the same result as the fine stuff on the right.

Don’t even get me started on cell phones.  As far as I’m concerned, mobile phones could have stopped right here in terms of design:

…while adding all the later system features we’ve come to know and love [eyecross].  (Am I the only one who needs about twenty minutes to send an intelligible 3-line text on an iPhone or Android phone?  Great Mercury’s blistered fingers:  do they design modern phones’ “keyboards” using a three-year-old girl’s fingertips as the model size?)

I’m not a Luddite, by any means.  I am an unabashed follower of Occam’s Razor, however, which in this context means that simple tasks can best be accomplished using non-complex tools — “best” being a combination of utility and cost.


The word “nativism” is often used as a pejorative term, referring to people who are chauvinistic and want to restrict their country’s inhabitants to its “native” peoples, or likewise want to preserve the country’s original culture (whatever that is).

There’s another kind of nativism that has nothing at all to do with the people  of the country, but of its flora and fauna.  Ignoring the animals (fauna) for a moment, let’s look at the flora (foliage, plants and trees).  An example of this is (of course) South Africa, where there has been a great push to restrict and even destroy what are called “foreign” plants — even if said plants were imported more than a century earlier and are now as “native” as any other plant.  Thus the jacaranda trees, which are so popular and so widespread that the nation’s capital Pretoria is known as the “Jacaranda City”, and the northern suburbs of Johannesburg are likewise full of these trees with their gorgeous purple flowers.  Here’s an aerial view of Joburg’s northern suburbs:

…and what it looks like at street level:

But to the Seffrican government, because the trees originally came from South America (back in the 1880s), they are “foreign”, may no longer be planted or even maintained, and in fact can be chopped down for firewood without penalty.  Sic semper Africanis.

But that’s not the full purpose of this rant.  This is.

Let’s say that you own an area of great natural beauty, but a bunch of the fauna in the area are not native to the area.  So you partner with an organization which concerns itself with the “national heritage”, agree with them to restore the area to its original state, and set about removing various shrubs, flowers and bushes.  Then the following happens:

Scottish Natural Heritage had agreed a tree management plan for ‘selective felling’ of non-native trees on the island in 2013 but did not tell landowner Luss Estates of the change to the plan for the widespread killing of more than 300 trees.

David Maclennan, SNH area manager for Argyll and the Outer Hebrides, said: ‘Although Luss Estates was party to the original management agreement in 2013, which posited the removal of rhododendron and, by selective felling, of ‘non-native species’ over a five year period, Scottish Natural Heritage accepts that the subsequent amendment, which proposed to kill all the beech trees on Inchtavannach in a single operation by chemical injection of glyphosate was not shared with Luss Estates Company.
‘SNH apologise for what was, with hindsight, an error on our part.
‘We should have ensured that Luss Estates Company was informed of and consented to the proposed operations.’
He added: ‘The speed, scale, and visual impact of the operation was much greater than anticipated and we recognise that this has caused considerable detriment and upset to Luss Estates Company and to Sir Malcolm Colquhoun personally. For this we unreservedly apologise.
‘There remains a need to undertake works to remove fallen timber from agreed areas – and we have offered to do this through a new agreement.’

Here’s a pic:

All those dead trees were poisoned by the SNH.  And forgive me, but a little “oopsie” apology wouldn’t cut it with me.

Were I Sir Malcolm Colquhoun (the owner of the estate), the “new agreement” would insist that the poxy SNH not only pay for the removal of the dead beech trees but also take on the cost of planting new fully-grown trees as replacements (look up how much it costs to replant a single fully-grown pine or oak tree, then multiply it by 300).  Then I would include in the agreement a demand for the hanging of the SNH manager who signed off on the poisoning action, and a public flogging of all the minions who actually performed the filthy deed.  (“Ve voss chust obeyink orders!” is indefensible.)

My ire in all this is not caused by the damage to the estate — at least, not much — but by the sheer fucking arrogance of an organization which thinks it can just ignore the property’s owner and do whatever they want.

And yes, I know that non-native species can cause damage to the indigenous fauna — witness the kudzu overgrowth in the Southern states of America — but beech trees are native to Britain (just maybe not in that area of poxy Scotland), so that was never a concern.  As far as I’m concerned, this is all of a part of the stupid Scottish Nationalist movement, where anything not Scottish is awful and needs to be removed or destroyed.

If I were His Lordship, once the dead trees are replaced I would order my groundskeepers to shoot these SNH pricks on site, but no doubt someone would have a problem with this.

Although the mindset of the South Africans and the Scots is identical, I can somewhat excuse the South African government’s war on the jacaranda because they’re stupid fucking Africans;  but the SNH weasels?  Strap them all to large rocks and toss them into Loch Lomond, the tartan fuckers.