Sunday, April 24, 2016


As anyone with a nine-year-old boy knows, Mjolnir was the name of Thor's hammer, and Thor was the hero of Asgard, a celestial city of Viking gods.

He fought giants and rode in a carriage pulled by two magical goats.

His sometime enemy -- or "frenemy" -- was his half-brother Loki. They battled for control of Midgard, which sounds like a women's undergarment but actually was Earth. Thor's beautiful wife Sif could stir things up between the brothers, but mostly she just brushed her gold (literally, it was made of gold) hair.

Though I know a lot about Thor, the idea of owning a hammer never excited me. That all changed a few weeks back, when I came upon the perfect hammer.

It was a meat hammer, silver and brilliantly gleaming like the moon.

* * * *

I was doing my Saturday morning lap around the Fancy Grocery Store, where I buy hand-rolled sushi, organic chicken, saffron threads, and highly-specialized kitchen gadgets made by the Swiss. (This is followed by a trip to the Inexpensive Grocery Store, where I round out the week's shopping with white bread, canned soup, Cheetos, and a Kardashian-themed tabloid.)

My plan was to make chicken parmesan and do it properly: with uniformly flattened chicken.

That's when I saw THE HAMMER. (Technically, a meat tenderizer.) As the kids say, it was sick.

For a while, I carted it around the store, admiring its heft and weight.

Then I posed it on a stack of raisin loaves, took a picture of it with my phone, and texted it to Dave with the message: "Check out this bad boy."

The hammer made me feel vital and powerful, like I was finally going to cook meat, for real. I feel like men must feel when they fire up an outdoor grill the size of a small car, with a pile of raw steaks and a giant fork at hand.

Eyeing the chicken breasts -- which had lived a wonderful, expensive life somewhere in Napa County -- now in my grocery cart, I thought: You are GOING DOWN, my friends. You will be [evil silent laugh] UNIFORMLY FLATTENED with my SILVER HAMMER.

Once home, I rinsed the hammer and peeled off the tag. It was ready to fly!

* * * * 

Did I mention I have been eating a lot of chickpeas lately?

As it turns out, chickpeas in an Indian simmer sauce are delicious served over jasmine rice. Cucumbers are good on the side, or oven-roasted cauliflower with a sprinkling of cumin and chili powder.

And almond milk actually tastes better than real milk! It's crazy.

Halfway through pounding four raw chicken breasts, the obscure and idiosyncratic figure we'll call my conscience piped up. There was a piece of pale flesh on the counter, and I was banging on it -- pretty hard! -- with a large metal hammer. The chickens were long-dead: defenseless. And here I was, mutilating their corpses!

The chicken parmesan was good and flat. But chewing it, I experienced a certain ambivalence . . . (Lesson: NEVER OVERTHINK MEAT. Just eat it and don't think about it!)

The silver hammer makes a fine addition to my kitchen tool set. I'm sure I'll use it again, or Dave will, while my conscience covers its eyes and whistles.

In the meantime, I will sadistically run zucchinis through the Spiralizer. Maybe I'll pulverize some chickpeas and make hummus!

You just never know.