Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Global Warming Update....Cow Farts, Take 2

First off, apparently nitrous oxide (aka laughing gas) is a forgotten greenhouse gas.....310 times more powerful than CO2. Who knew? It comprises 9% of greenhouse emissions and is growing by .25% a year.

The cause? Those damn farmers. Soil bacteria release NO2, and those damn vegetarians are going to be the ruin of us all. Why are they doing this? Probably because with their advanced, healthy and morally appropriate diets they will look so much better than the rest of us in those monokinis we will all soon be wearing on our sunny Arctic vacations.

Nitrous is a famous restaurant gas. It is used in the pastry kitchen to make whipped cream. You put in your flavored or colored cream in the dispenser, charge it with nitrous, and off you go. As the nitrous expands it cools better than O2 or C02 and you get better fluff.

Whipped cream dispensers are famous sources of joy for busboys the world over. Denied access to the bar, and the champagne everyone else in the kitchen is drinking.....they usually have free reign in the walk-in cooler. At Silver Jones back in the day, we finally gave up on having functioning Redi-Whip to finish our sundaes, and hand whipped everything.

In Europe there is no such thing as Redi-Whip, of course. We had containers and big tanks and charged our own. In America they have something similar called Whip-ettes, but they are little tiny things.

When I came back from Europe as a wee chef upon landing in New York my first stop was a medical supply house for a big tank of nitrous. I got the call from my old Cornell buddies to come to Telluride, Colorado to open the Sheridan Hotel Restaurant....and in no time I was on my way in a drive-away car with a case of Wild Turkey, my knives, and my nitrous oxide tank.

Telluride was such a small forlorn town in those days that there was no need for pastries on a European scale. There were 800 residents year round.....and 16 restaurants, three of them French. The citizens would walk the streets in the evenings, hit some bars.....and then all descend on one or two of the 16 joints. It was feast or famine.

Meanwhile, the cooks and waiters stood around and waited for the nightly verdict. At first we drank to pass the time (along with the nitrous, all kitchens have Myers rum!).....and then if we got hit, we stumbled around, cutting ourselves, dropping trays, burning each other......Not good.

Then the town district attorney flew in a WWII bomber full of pot from Columbia, and successfully landed it the desert out by Four Corners. The town was awash, and the town marshal was in on it, law enforcement was lax (the town judge owned the sauna/massage salon underneath the Opera House and held court steaming and in the nude from time to time). We tried smoking the DA's pot, but it was super strong for us yahoos, and we wound up burning, bumping, dropping and cutting each other during the rush just like with the booze.

Then, I remembered the tank. Problem solved. We would stand around and wait for the to speak....throwing darts and taking hits off the nitrous tank. If we got slammed, a couple of deep breaths would bring you back to level. One did have to be careful not to blow up ones lungs too far.....

There was no down side (who knew about Global Warming?). Well, there was the time when the landlord brought in some potential investors. It was deadly slow, and we were working on menus in the lounge taking hits off the tank. Just as Larry came in with the money men I took an extra big hit, held it.....and passed out on the floor.

The tank was a catering success as well. I remember doing a party in the City Hall down the street for all the local bigwigs. We brought along the tank for some unknown reason, and before too long had a line of mountain politicos stretching out of our kitchen into the main party. Simpler times.

After two years of mountain madness, we had to depart Telluride. We sold the business (which somehow ran at a profit) and a lot of our stuff. The tank was bought by the D.A. who owned part of a resort hot springs in the mountains called Dutton Hot Springs.

At Dutton, there was no electricity......and actually..... no road in, either. Four wheel drives could make it in summer, but in winter it was cross-country skiis and snowmobiles. There were rooms, the hotsprings....and a volleyball court. I think it was a clothing optional volleyball all seasons. There was a Sears building over the hot springs, some chaise lounges.....and a dental chair. And my nitrous tank!

Painless, clothing optional teeth cleaning. Eat your heart out, Golden Door!


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