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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.

Viral Victuals

March 26, 2007

Viral Victuals

I’ve got a virus.

My particular virus is not influenza, a common cold, or a computer virus. I don’t have chickenpox, mumps, Ebola, or rabies.

There are many viruses with exotic and interesting names such as: cereal yellow dwarf virus, Leaky virus, and Four Corners hantavirus. There are virus named after plants and vegetables such as: squash mosaic virus, tobacco virus, tomato bushy stunt virus, and rice dwarf virus. There are also viruses named after animals such as: squirrel monkey retrovirus, Swiss mouse virus, European elk papillomavirus, wooley monkey sarcoma virus, Turkeypox, camelpox, sealpox, and Gay elephant tycomabanucleoid virus. I don’t have any of those either.

Yesterday I read an Associated Press story with a headline that stated: “Obesity linked to virus, new experiments suggest.” It appears that I have contracted the fat virus and that is the reason that I do all of my shopping in the big and tall section.

I’ve been trying to lose 30 pounds since January. At the moment I’m 15 pounds lighter than I was on New Year’s Day, but a few weeks ago I hit a plateau and the scales aren’t budging. I must have contracted a bad case of this fat virus while I was on Spring Break.

Whew! At least it’s a virus. I though all of those barbeque ribs and late-night refrigerator raids were to blame for my flabby midsection.

When I told a doctor friend of mine that I thought I had come down with the fat virus, he asked if the article mentioned a vaccine. “I don’t think so. But if there were a vaccine, where would I get one?” I asked. He then told me that vaccines are small doses of the actual virus that one is trying to defend against. So I asked him if loading up on gravy-cheese fries, cornbread, and jelly doughnuts would help kick start the vaccination process and assist in my fight against the fat virus. He didn’t have an answer.

Then it hit me— maybe I can battle the fat virus with an antibiotic.

As everyone knows, antibiotics are made from mold. It just so happens that mold comes from bread. I love bread. Around the time I started my diet, a new French bakery opened across the street from my office. At the time, I thought that might make dieting harder as they have many beautiful and tasty pastries. Now that I know about this fat virus and its dangers, I am going to do my best to find an antibiotic. I think I’ll start my search for a fat cure in the C’est La Vie Bakery’s pastry case.

As a matter of fact, as I write this I am eating a custard-raisin filled pastry from C’est La Vie and I feel better already.

The fat-virus study was conducted at the University of Wisconsin which proves that when it’s snowing up North, those people truly have nothing to do. It seems that they could have spent some of their snowed-in time coming up with a name for the fat virus.

My home state, Mississippi, is statistically the fattest state in the nation. Who better to name the virus?

Here are my suggestions for fat virus names: Double Chinfluenza, Dimpled Thigh Disease, Chunky Gut Syndrome, Chronic Lap-Over Flabbyitis, NASCAR Barley Bug, Mississippi Blubber Flu, or Pudgypox.

So it turns out that I am fat-virus positive. It could be worse; I could have come down with that yellow dwarf stuff.

Robert burning calories and searching for a cure for Double Chinitis
Park City, Utah, March ’07

Chocolate Pie

1 cup plus 2 Tbl. Sugar
3 /4 cups Heavy cream
3 /4 cups Buttermilk
3 1 /2 Tbl Cornstarch
Pinch Salt
4 Egg yolks, reserve whites for meringue
3 ounces Semisweet chocolate, high quality
1 Tbl Butter
3 /4 tsp Vanilla
1 Pie Crust, baked (recipe below)

In a small saucepan combine the sugar, heavy cream, buttermilk, cornstarch and salt and whisk until smooth. Place over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil, whisking from time to time, allowing the sugar and cornstarch to dissolve and the mixture to thicken (about five minutes). Continue cooking at a low boil for an additional five minutes, whisking constantly.

In a mixing bowl, beat egg yolks lightly. Pour 1 /2 cup of the hot mixture into the egg yolks and whisk thoroughly. Pour the egg yolk mixture into the saucepan and whisk over the heat until thoroughly combined (about 30 seconds).

Pour mixture into a mixing bowl, and whisk in the chocolate, butter and vanilla. Continue whisking until thoroughly combined (mixture will be very thick). Pour the chocolate batter into the prepared pie crust. Prepare the meringue and spread over the pie and bake at 350 until golden, about 8-10 minutes. Allow pie to cool completely before serving (refrigerate at least four hours). Yield: eight slices


4 Egg whites
6 TBSP Sugar
1 /2 tsp Cream of tartar

Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer. When they start to increase in volume, add in the sugar and cream of tartar. Continue to beat until stiff peaks form.

Pie Crust

2 cups Flour
1 cup Shortening
1 /4 tsp Salt
1 Egg
1 /3 cup Milk

Blend the first three ingredients together with a pastry cutter or a fork. Beat egg and milk together. Slowly add egg/milk mixture to flour mixture, one tablespoon at a time until pie dough becomes moist and forms a ball. Divide into half and shape into a ball. Wrap and refrigerate one hour before rolling. Roll out on a floured surface. Yield: Two crusts

To roll out dough: Remove dough disk from refrigerator. If stiff and very cold, let stand until dough is cool but malleable.

Using a floured rolling pin, roll dough disk on a lightly floured surface from the center out in each direction, forming a 12 inch circle. To transfer dough, carefully roll it around the rolling pin, lift and unroll dough, centering it in an ungreased nine-inch pie plate.

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