Maillard Reaction

The other day when B. and I went to coffee, the daily trivia question was, “What t.v. star sang on the Berlin Wall?” 

“Bono?” I guessed.

“Roger Waters?” guessed B.

“Wrong,” said the barista.   “Think t.v. star.”  It turned out to be David Hasselhoff. 

B. was all, “Oh, I shoulda’ guessed that.”

I was all, “huh? Who’s David Hasselhoff?”

B., the cashier, and the barista all just stared at me.  “Baywatch?  Haven’t you seen that?”

“Um, no.”  I was glad I hadn't said what I was thinking, which is, "Isn't he  one of the Seahawks?"

B. gave me that look, like you are so freakin’ lame it’s amazing I have coffee with you.

I felt the tiniest bit defensive.  “Hey, I know other stuff.  Just not about David Hasselhoff.”

“Like what?”

“Well, like why hamburgers are so popular.”

“Okay, go.”

“Well, it’s because they are one of a small number of meat sandwiches where the meat requires the same level of effort to chew as the bread.  Picture a steak sandwich, where either you have to really smoosh the bread with your hands and rip the meat, or a big hunk of meat comes out that doesn’t match the bread, leaving you with a future meatless bite of sandwich.”

The barista and cashier look bored, and B. starts doing that “cut” gesture, running his hand horizontally across his neck.

“Wait, there’s more. I’m not done yet.”

But he keeps doing that gesture, so I stop.

We walk to a table and sit down.  “Where’d you learn that, NPR or something?”

“Um, the New York Times,” I respond, a little sheepishly. 

“Practically the same thing.”

“Seriously, I’m not finished.” I start, but he’s not listening.  “Our big brains evolved to need lots of protein,” I continue.

“Yeah, let’s go get me some protein.”  So we walk over to the grocery store where he buys a bag of chicken.  I know.   Chicken should never come in a bag.

Back at the office, I start flipping through the database of calls to return.  There’s a lot of interesting stuff, but nothing assigned to me, and besides, it’s not even 7:00 yet, so I can’t call anyone anyway. Stuff like, “I’m a vet treating a hybrid wolf that may need to stay overnight in the kennel.  Is that allowed in the RA-5 zone?”  Or, “My neighbor has honey bees and I’m allergic to bees.  Can she do that?” Or, “I own property in East King County.  Can I start a cemetery here?”  Wait, right?  Who needs to start a cemetery? Is that normal?  I look up the parcel, and it turns out to be a small lot in a subdivision.  I want to call these people, but I don't.  Or, “Why does the county own this parcel?”  I look up the parcel, and it’s not owned by the County.

I have an idea that we should call people back on skype, but have a sock monkey do the talking. I go look for my boss to tell him this, but I can’t find him, and I get paged to go answer a question.

The person I’m helping is one of those guys who can’t just ask the question (“Can I replace my old mobile home with a new one in the same location?”  Sock monkey would say yes.)

Instead, he has to explain about his divorce, and the moss on the roof, and the guy who owned it 20 years ago who liked to golf, and on and on, which on the one hand, I enjoy because it makes the world a little bit smaller, but on the other hand, he's not a very good story teller.  Moss on the roof isn't really a story.  I eventually extract myself and walk through the lobby, and notice four books sitting on the coffee table.  I’ve never seen books there before, so I stop to look.  We have, for the public’s reading pleasure, the following titles:

  1. Silent Grief, a book about surviving a loved one’s suicide
  2. Hocus Pocus, by Kurt Vonnegut, a book about technology spun out of control and man's ineffective efforts to control it
  3.  One about something having to do with midlife crisis with the word Costco in the title. 
  4. One about how to manage a workplace or something.
Light reading for the lobby.

As I'm standing there, I get a text from R.   “I was 20 minutes late to school.  Can you write an excuse for me?

“What should I say?’

“It would be best if it were something very manly.  Like, I was chasing a wolf, or hunting meat for breakfast.”

I write to the attendance office, “R. was late because he overslept.”  But it got me to thinking -- women don't work very hard to project a womanly image.  Why is that?  I challenge any of you bloggers out there to take that topic on.

I’ve been thinking about being a doula lately, and decide I should go talk to my boss about it. I look around for a while, but can’t find him.

I Haven’t Been Trained In That comes in to my cube when I get back.

“I have a question for you,” he starts.

“I have the answer! The reason we love hamburgers so much is….”  I go on with my speil, but he doesn’t seem very interested, and indicates that isn’t the answer he needs.  He goes on with his question, and I answer it, and then I tell him what our boss would say, which is a different answer from mine.  “so, you have choices,” I say.

“How do you know what he’d say?”

“Well, let’s go find him and ask.  I need to tell him why we like hamburgers so much anyway.”

We go looking for him, but he’s nowhere to be found.  As we’re looking around, I do notice that Hocus Pocus is missing from the table.

I go back to my computer and try to do something but it doesn't work, so I write to the Help Desk.  A few minutes later, The Magnificent calls, and says he's having lunch with another IT guy soon and they can talk about my problem, and in the meantime, I can use this work-around.

"Not to complain or anything," I say, "but it does feel like my whole life has become one giant workaround, you know?  And where are you guys going to lunch, anyway?"  I'm hoping this will lead towards my hamburger information.

"Five Guys."

"What do they serve there?"


"Oh!  I have some information about burgers...."

"Is this going to be about how they're unhealthy or cruel?"

So I start to explain, but before I even get there, he says, "oh, is this going to be about the Maillard Reaction?  Because that's why I like toast."

You can see why he's called The Magnificent.

Sorry, that's all I have.  This is my own moss-on-the-roof tale that has no point, and not even much of a plot line.  Oh, wait, I do have one more thing.  Those books disappeared, one at a time over the course of two days, and now they're all gone.  Silent Grief was next to go.

Thanks for sticking it out.


  1. Good one! I think I am going to suggest that sock puppet for work.

    That would go over really well, especially if we go to skype-type communication!

  2. Don't forget to check out Good Eats

  3. so now it boils down to : a sock monkey could do your job! I could call in angrily with that suggestion and see where it leads.....


  4. Yes, a trained sock monkey could do my job. I'm not sure they'd want to, though. CC, I'm not sure that's true of your job. And Pablo, the weird thing about Good Eats is how they're always crouching. Did you notice that?

  5. I'm pretty sure blogspot doesn't want me to leave this comment. But I'm doing it anyway.

    I hadn't consciously noticed the couching, but I see what you mean. I also think they would be glad that you think it's weird. - Pablo Magnifico

  6. When we arrived in Berlin the other day, our tour guide made us listen to a recording of "The Hoff" singing atop the Berlin Wall. Not a trip highlight.


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