Never Bow To Customs Agents

DON’T WORRY…this is not another food post, I promise. What?!? We’re in the middle of a pandemic and nothing makes you realize how mundane and cyclical your diet is like staying at home and self-isolating for four months. This then leads to the realization that you need to spice up things with more bacon and chocolate (Quarantine-15 is real y’all!). Anyway, no food talk. Well, I mean, there’s food talk—but it’s not a recipe. It’s actually M&Ms and sorry to all of you out there who have heard this story ad nauseam. It’s probably better told in person, especially when I can demonstrate with aforementioned M&Ms, but, well, social distancing and all that jazz…

This is a great cautionary tale of traveling internationally. I’d like to tell you it’s my only cautionary tale of traveling internationally, but, well, that would be a lie, multiple times over.

Anyone who has ever flown into Australia knows how stringent their Customs process is. Anyone who has never flown into Australia quickly learns how stringent their Customs process is. Despite other airport events to suggest otherwise, I know that you cannot bring fruits and vegetables and general food items into most countries. In fact, you cannot bring fruits between Oregon and California either—in case you’re ever road tripping up and down the West Coast of the United States.

What I didn’t seem to grasp at the time is that this concept also includes snacks…unless they are unopened and hermetically sealed. Even if you purchased a ginormous bag of peanut M&Ms and opened them approximately 14 hours into a 16-hour flight from LAX to SYD and had only eaten a couple of handfuls. They are now considered tainted and must be disposed of before entering Australia. But hello! this is me and I wasn’t going to easily hand over my nearly full bag of M&M’s because some cute Customs agent with a cute Australian accent said so.

Turns out, I was wrong.

PLEASE NOTE: As a general rule of thumb you should NOT argue with Customs agents. That might be Rule #2 when traveling in airports (Rule #1: never mention the word gun at the airport). Not that I was arguing, mind you—I was pointedly asking the cute Customs agent with the cute Australian accent what the difference was in opening a bag of—let’s just pick a random snack, like, oh I don’t know, peanut M&Ms—on a plane flying to a country and opening them in my hotel room in said country.

Please note that this was my very first flight to Australia and my first ever flight over 10 hours. I also spent 15 hours prior to this flight hanging out at LAX. Additionally this was way back when I could never sleep on flights. Needless to say, I was a bit wired and perhaps a little jittery from chugging coffee for about 26 hours straight. Thus when the cute Customs agent with the cute Australian accent told me I had to dispose of my newly opened extra large bag of peanut M&Ms, I just laughed because thought he was kidding.

Rule #2.B: Don’t Laugh at Customs Agents.

When I realized that he was not kidding, I did what I deemed the only sensible thing that I could do: I started eating them. Rapidly. But I am not rude and I offered all the Customs agents some of my M&Ms. Apparently, this is considered a bribe.

Rule #2.C: Don’t Offer Bribes to Customs Agents.

None of them took me up on my bribe. Thankfully, they didn’t seem interested in detaining me—only pointing out that they could. So there I stood. In front of the Customs table, stuffing my face with peanut M&Ms, looking like a chipmunk, batting my eyes at the handful of agents who were very interested in this crazy Yank and her refusal to willingly hand over her chocolate. I knew there was no way I could actually eat the entire bag at one time and began offering them to fellow passengers as they walked by. A shockingly large number of people took some, blatantly ignoring a life long lecture from their parents never to take candy from strangers. Perhaps the clustered group of gawking Customs agents made them feel safer. Perhaps the lure of candy coated chocolate and peanuts was too much to deny. Perhaps it was jetlag and disorientation from being on a plane for 16+ hours. Perhaps they knew this wouldn’t end well for me and were just trying to show support.

Eventually, I thought I got my point across (aka I gave up because I was actually starting to feel nauseated from too much candy). Plus I remembered that I had a connecting flight that I could not miss, despite my desire to best the cute Customs agent with the cute Australian accent who was completely unsympathetic to my chocolate plight. I reluctantly sighed, locked eyes with the cute Customs agent, and begrudgingly made a huge show out of throwing away my now 1⁄2 eaten large bag of recently opened peanut M&Ms. I really wanted to bow, but somehow—either knowing it was a bad idea or fearing I might puke—I refrained. Probably for the best.

Rule #2.D: Never Bow to Customs Agents.

My best advice to you when we can start traveling again is never bring anything ever into Australia. Except maybe clothes and shoes…

Mmmmm…Chhhhocolate…

Holy shitballs y’all!

Last week while looking for a new dessert for Fourth of July, the following words caught my attention: Chocolate Angel Food Cake.

yeah…you read that correctly: CHOCOLATE ANGEL FOOD CAKE!

Did you know this existed? I had no clue! Which seems very negligent of me, since angel food cake is one of my favorites.

I’m sure Pinterest and Google can provide you 7 gazillion from-scratch recipes, but if you’re short on time or the wherewithal or you just don’t want to, then add ½ cup of cocoa powder to a box of angel food cake mix and follow the directions on the the box.

Below is my version of the trifle recipe I found using chocolate angel food cake. And by “I found,” I mean Ann found and sent to me with an enthusiastic suggestion that I make it. I think it’s a great summer dessert for special occasions. Or any time, really, since it’s so easy to throw together. And honestly, what pairs better than strawberries and angel food cake except strawberries and chocolate? I mean, AFTER strawberries and champagne, of course.

Okay, okay…one quick note if you hate strawberries: please do NOT let that stop you from trying this. I think any berry, particularly blueberries, would make a good substitute.

Chocolate Strawberry Trifle

• 1 Angel Food Cake Mix
• ½ cup cocoa powder
• 1 ¼ cup water (or amount listed on cake mix directions)
• 3 cups plain Greek yogurt
• ¼ cup honey
• 1 tablespoon vanilla
• 1 ½ cups frozen strawberries, thawed
• 5-6 cups sliced fresh strawberries

Preheat oven to 350F. Whisk together cake mix and cocoa powder. Add water and with a mixer, mix on low for 30 seconds, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, and then mix on medium for one minute. Do not over mix. Pour batter into an ungreased 10” tube pan and bake for 35-45 minutes or until cake looks dry and cracked on top. Allow to cool completely and then cut into large chunks. Try not to “sample” too many chunks.

In a medium bowl, mix together the yogurt, honey, and vanilla. Purée the thawed frozen strawberries, using a food processor, blender, immersion blender, or your preferred implement of destruction. Add to yogurt and mix thoroughly.

In a trifle (or large glass) bowl, place ½ of the cake chunks along the bottom. Layer with ½ of strawberry yogurt mixture, spread evenly (read: as evenly as you can). Top with a layer of strawberry slices. Repeat layers. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving (note: the longer it’s refrigerated, the mushier the cake will be. Not necessarily an issue, however, your layers will start to lose their shape but definitely not their deliciousness!).

bon appétit!

Memoirs of a Princess Pupcicle: Chocolate Lab

I would like to start this post out by acknowledging that chocolate is very bad for dogs.  I do not give my dog chocolate.  Nor do I condone any dog eating–or even licking–chocolate.

But, well, I have a Labrador.  And when it comes to food, Labradors are exceptionally crafty.  As I have mentioned before, ninjas could take lessons from Princess Adelaide Grace.

One year for Christmas, a friend was so very kind to send me a kilo of dark chocolate from Haigh’s Chocolates in Adelaide (hahaha, Adelaide.  Not that I’m laughing at the city itself, just the irony of the chocolate coming from a place with the same name as the princess).  My friend didn’t tell me what she sent in her magical package, which arrived one day in early December.  It was filled with a Christmas card, a letter, and a few small wrapped gifts.  The card just said “Happy Christmas!” and the accompanying letter told of a year filled with adventure and fun.

Nowhere was there any mention that I should keep the largest/heaviest of the wrapped gifts far, far away from the princess’s reach.  It was all nicely wrapped and so I put it under the tree.  For nearly two weeks, Adelaide (the dog, not the city) seemed uninterested in any of the packages from Adelaide (the city, not the dog).  Since Adelaide (the dog, although perhaps also the city) cannot contain her excitement when she smells food, I presumed that nothing in the packages was edible.  Therefore, I did not believe any packages from Adelaide (the city, not the dog) would be tempting to Adelaide (the dog, not the city).

HAHAHAHAHA. Wow! I was spectacularly wrong!

One day while I was leaving work, Ann sends the following text:

what’s Haigh’s?

To which, I responded:

An amazing chocolatier in Australia.

The reply back with a picture:

would it have been wrapped in Christmas paper?

I responded:

uh…maybe…why?

Of course, I was on the subway and since phone service was sketchy, I couldn’t call Ann.  What I did manage to do was text my friend in Adelaide, who confirmed that the AWOL package was, in fact, a full kilo of dark chocolate, not just a small bar of chocolate.  I relayed that information to Ann.  The second I came above ground, I called and received the following diatribe:

YEP! YOUR FUCKING DOG ATE THE FUCKING CHOCOLATE.  ALL OF IT.  EVERY LAST MORSEL! GONE!  IT’S ALL OVER HER FACE AND SHE’S JUST LYING ON YOUR BED BASKING IN THE GLORY OF EATING ALL THE FUCKING CHOCOLATE!  AND NOW I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO!  SHOULD I TAKE HER TO THE VET?  SHE SEEMS FINE BUT SHE COULD DIE!  I CAN’T BELIEVE SHE ATE ALL THE CHOCOLATE!  I MEAN, YES I CAN, BUT WHY?!?!?!  IT COULD KILL HER!  DOES SHE KNOW THIS?  OF COURSE SHE FUCKING DOES, BUT SHE OBVIOUSLY DOESN’T CARE BECAUSE SHE ATE ALL THE GODDAMN CHOCOLATE!

After several minutes of panicked back and forth about the antics of my newly minted Chocolate Lab, I hung up and immediately called the vet.  After explaining Addy’s dalliance to the vet tech who answered the phone, I was put on a brief hold and the vet himself came on the line.  After repeating the story to him, he asked a couple of questions about how Addy was doing.  I replied no vomiting, no diarrhea, no sluggish behavior, and that according to my roommate, she is happy as a clam and proudly flaunting the remnants of her feast.

To which the vet responded:

well wouldn’t you be happy as a clam if you just ate a kilo of dark chocolate?!?

IMG_6552

Touché!

Thankfully the worst thing to come out of this was that a) I was deprived of some delectable chocolate (the real tragedy of this story!) and b) now the pupcicle thinks she is immune to the evil effects of chocolate to dogs and is constantly trying to sneak a taste when I’m not looking.

sigh… #lifewithlabs