Food Friday!


Food Friday!
A cacao fruit on a cutting board

For chocolate, like water

THE GROCERY DELIVERY company was selling cacao fruit, so I bought a cacao fruit. Why not? People do eat cacao fruit, according to the internet, so why shouldn't I join them? It was $12.99, which was a bit steep for an estimated three-pound fruit, but it had the grocery delivery company's "Peak Quality" endorsement, and really what I was buying was a learning experience. I had always thought of the cacao fruit, inasmuch as I'd thought of it, as two steps removed from what I ate: there was the chocolate, there were the beans that made the chocolate, and then presumably before that was something that had the beans in it, a fruit of some kind.

And now I could get that fruit delivered to my home. From the picture, and from accounts on the internet, the cacao fruit appeared to be in my favorite classes of fruits, the ones offering pale soft flesh around dark seeds. According to the people writing enthusiastic things about it, the flesh was supposed to evoke "fruity, floral notes...pineapple, rose, or almond" or "the perfect mix of tropical fruits like mango, pineapple, passion fruit, and lychee." The dark seeds, here, are the famous cacao beans—or they become the famous cacao beans after they've sat around for a while with the pale fruit flesh fermenting on them.

I looked up some things people had written online about making chocolate from fresh cacao fruit, and it seemed like their projects had persistent problems with mold. I'm not against a little judicious home fermentation. I've made sauerkraut one time, and I keep a quart jar of homemade salted lemons in the fridge, but the failure rate on homemade chocolate seemed a little too high.

The cacao pod that arrived looked chocolatey and inviting, deep black-brown with lighter brown grooves running along it, but it was forbiddingly firm. It's hard to be sure when an unfamiliar fruit is ripe. You don't want to be disappointed by eating it too soon; you don't want to let it rot, either.

While I waited we dug into some tangerines, which were $14.99 for a five-pound box and were their own learning experience, in that they were kind of scarred and battered-looking and were preposterously delicious. I told the kids the blemishes were just cosmetic, and we started peeling away the discolored skin, and when we came up for air maybe two and a half pounds of the box was gone. I bit into a little scrap of peel I'd accidentally missed and it released a stunning bloom of citrus oil on my tongue.

Two days after the pod came, I got out a big knife and opened it up. It took some effort. There was no great rush of floral scent. A few rows of the beans, caught in the path of the knife, were split open and visible against the white flesh. I dug at the innards with a spoon and the flesh popped out in separate little wedge-shaped segments, one around each individual seed. The pulp was a little cottony to the touch.

Cacao fruit cut in half showing the flesh and beans

In the mouth? It tasted OK. Not like every delicious tropical fruit at once, more like any tropical fruit but none in particular: a little sweet, a little sour, maybe a very little bit something else. It did not taste like 13 bucks; presumably some of that was my fault for not trusting it to ripen more.

Detail of cut open cacao with beans separated out and some hunks of pulp

The most noticeable thing about the fruit flesh was that it wasn't appreciably less firm than the seeds, which made it all but impossible to eat around the seeds, or to dig them out without having them crumble and leave fragments behind. The beans gave way to the tooth as readily as their surroundings did. Google was almost too ruined with SEO text and quackery to answer the question of whether or not it was a good idea to eat raw cacao beans, but with no real indications it was a bad idea, I went ahead and chewed up the seeds with the pulp.

Once I did, the lesson of the cacao fruit came through. The beans didn't taste like chocolate any more than the pulp did. But what came melting out of them was the smooth and familiar consistency of cocoa butter.

Screenshot of frozen pizzas from grocery site: SCREAMIN' SICILIAN - CALIFORNIA PIZZA KITCHEN - DR. OETKER - ELLIO'S - SURFER BOY
Frozen pizzas I have known and eaten.

A review of the Stranger Things Surfer Boy pizza

I LOVE PIZZA, and I am always looking for new and exciting pizza opportunities, carryout or delivery, fresh or frozen, brick oven or microwave. I am always all in on pizza. I am also budget conscious, so I typically only get a supermarket frozen pie if it’s on sale. That’s how I discovered this exciting and new pizza product, looking for a deal! I saw a yellow MARKDOWN tag in my grocer’s freezer. $8.79 marked down to $6, score! I inspected the box, which was unusual in that it looked like a typical red-on-white corner pizzeria box.

Front and back of the Surfer Boy box

The front had a logo on it for the retro-throwback-Young-Adult-novels-sci-fi/fantasy show Stranger Things, on Netflix, which I watch, and then I got the reference for Surfer Boy Pizza, it’s the place where one of the characters works. All is revealed on the back, there’s a monster and stuff! It’s a TV show promo tie-in somehow, or something? Anyway, two bucks off, I’m in! Cheap pizza, possibly enhancing my affinity for the TV show, or at least contributing to awareness of the show!

The promo copy on the box is written in the tone of the character who works at the pizza place:

Enjoy your very own Surfer Boy Pizza pie from the new season of Netflix’s Stranger Things! Go on a totally rad flavor adventure that will make it feel like your slices were delivered hot to your door. Each  mouth-watering variety contains rich tomato sauce, delicious mozzarella cheese, and a gnarly range of toppings. The thick crust is crispy on the outside and airy on the inside—you’ll think it was hand-tossed by the Surfer Boy Pizza dudes themselves. Throw a pie in the oven and buckle up your taste buds, brochachos!

Turns out this pie is made by a company called Palermo’s, and they haz Brands! They make several frozen pizza products, one of which I enjoy whenever I can find it marked down, the Screamin’ Sicilian, a superior frozen pie, especially when it’s on sale for a buck or two off!


So the pie unpacks from the box and plastic wrap pretty well, not like Stouffer’s French Bread Pizzas, where half the stupid cheese falls off when you unwrap it. It looks like a functional pizza product!

Frozen pie in plastic wrap and out

Like many grocery store frozen pizzas, it’s full of Ingredients!

Crust (Wheat Flour, Water, Soybean Oil, Palm Oil, Sugar, Bread Crumbs [Wheat Flour, Sugar, Yeast, Salt], Salt, Yeast, Garlic, Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, L-cysteine), Low Moisture Whole Milk Mozzarella Cheese(Pasteurized Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes), Water, Spicy Italian Sausage With Garlic (Pork, Spices, Salt, Sugar, Paprika, Dehydrated Garlic, Natural Flavoring), Tomato Paste, Pepperoni (pork, Beef, Salt, Contains 2% Or Less Of Spices, Dextrose, Lactic Acid Starter Culture, Oleoresin Of Paprika, Sodium Nitrite, Bha, Bht, Citric Acid, May Contain: Dehydrated Garlic, Flavoring, Sodium Ascorbate), Roasted Green Bell Peppers, Roasted Red Onions, Mushrooms, Contains Less Than 2% Of Garlic Puree (Garlic, Water), Seasoning (Sugar, Salt, Modified Corn Starch, Xanthan Gum, Spices), Sliced Black Olives (Olives, Salt, Ferrous Gluconate [stabilizer]). Contains bioengineered food ingredients. Due to the nature of olives, product may contain pits.

Tasting and judgment

Actually, judgment and then tasting! Let’s compare the SERVING SUGGESTION on the box with what I ended up with. I like my pizzas well-done, so don’t be put off by the well-doneness.

I think the IRL pie looks nicer than the box picture, and it’s a nice spray of toppings!

As far as how it did in my mouth, it was okay, good pepperoni, cheese is nice, sauce a little bit too sweet for me, and I think maybe because of the green peppers, it reminded me of one of my all-time rock-bottom discount pizza experiences, the Celeste PIZZA FOR ONE, which is the ultimate immediate-gratification pizza (microwaves in two minutes atop a weird little foil disc), and I never buy one unless it’s marked down to a dollar.

Celeste pizza from my freezer with lots of ice on top

[INSTANT UPDATE! So I realized I had a CELESTE in the freezer and I took it out to photo the foil disc, and it’s gone, they have Improved the product prep! Also, that’s not cheese on the top there, FREEZER BURN is real, oof!]

Stranger Things show reference: That is def a pizza from The Upside Down! I’ll still eat it tho. Celeste! It’s not good, but it’s pizza, and [INSERT CLICHE ABOUT PIZZA, YOU KNOW].

If I was gonna compare my Surfer Boy Supreme Pizza to the TV show, I’d say it kinda tastes like Season 2.

Screenshot from grocery site, Surfer Boy box and Celeste box
A buck-nineteen is too high for a Celeste

So yeah, it tastes like a Celeste, and that’s OK. It’s better than a Celeste because it’s baked and not nuked, but I can’t tell you if it’s better than a baked Celeste because I have never wanted to wait long enough to do that because it is usually two o’clock in the A.M. when I’m trying to knock down a Celeste.

Detail of text on box: OUR GUARANTEE - We guarantee you will love our pizza or we will give you a replacement. With contact info.

There’s a money-back guarantee for a replacement pizza, but like, I ate almost the whole thing in one sitting, and I went back the next morning for warmed-over pizza breakfast, so I kinda feel like complaining about a pizza I bought on sale is somehow bad Pizza-Karma, I dunno. If they were gonna give me a Screamin’ Sicilian as a replacement, I might be thinking differently about this, Karma-wise! Anyway, it was an OK pizza, would not buy again, unless it was on sale, maybe for three bucks off next time? Ohh, I’m so hungry.

Screenshot from Palermo’s site showing boxes of the varieties of Surfer Boy pizza: Pepperoni Pizza - Multi-Meat Pizza - Pineapple Jalapeno Pizza - Supreme Pizza - Cheese Pizza - Spicy Combo Pizza - BBQ Chicken Pizza - Surfers Special Pizza

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Looks like Netflix might not be running new episodes of STRANGER THINGS until 2025. This will give some of us time to explore the full catalog of Surfer Boy pies, if they commit to the promo for that long, and if they’re on sale!

Also, I read the thing up top Scocca wrote about CACAO, and I would like to say: Cacao!

A picture of a medium-gray cloudy sky

New York City, February 1, 2024

★★ A little light was struggling from the east, trying to waken the colors on the still-bleak walk across the Park. Thin fog made the view a bit bleary in all directions. An airplane faded slightly as it clipped a lower-hanging bit of cloud. Wearing just a hoodie, on the word of the warming forecast, was a mistake. At midday the chill still hadn't noticeably retreated, and the light had given up and left. A sparrow jumped up a low slope when approached, like an out-of-season toad. Teams of preschoolers were marshaled for recreation, in assorted thick knit hats and uniform bright-green safety vests.


Indignity Morning Podcast No. 211: Doggos, science, put it on page one.

Tom Scocca • Feb 2, 2024


EVERY DAY, READERS of Indignity who have previously benefited from the Bluesky-code generosity of other readers of Indignity continue to pay it forward and provide us with codes for the still-beta social network. If you haven’t already gotten a code from us, we have lots of Bluesky codes to share. Email and we will award codes to those who respond, one per reader, first email, first served.


WE PRESENT INSTRUCTIONS for the assembly of sandwiches from Cook Book of Practical and Tested Baking and Cooking Recipes, by The Ladies Aid of the Lutheran Hospital, published in 1927, now in the Public Domain and available at for the delectation of all.

Thin sliced buttered white bread, hard boiled eggs, 1 tablespoon minced ham to each egg, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise or cream dressing to each egg, salt and pepper to taste. Have the eggs finely chopped or pass through a meat chopper, add the ham, dressing and seasoning and mix well. Spread the mixture on slices of buttered bread.
—Mrs. A. W. Schwier.

Twelve thin slices white bread, 1/2 cup cottage or cream cheese, 1/2 cup chopped nut meats, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon paprika, 3 tablespoons salad dressing, 1/3 cup soft butter. Arrange slices of bread in pairs, buttering one slice of each pair. Make a paste of the rest of the ingredients, and spread this on second slice. Press the two together firmly, cut in halves crosswise, and arrange on a sandwich plate.

One cup shrimp, 2 hard boiled eggs, 1/2 cup mayonnaise dressing, 12 ripe olives, salt and pepper to taste. Wash shrimp in cold water and place in bowl with hard boiled eggs. With a fork mash until eggs and shrimp are well mixed. Cut in fine pieces the olives and add to mixture together with salt and pepper. Cut thin slices of bread from large loaf. With a round cutter cut out the center of slices. Butter slices very sparingly, then place a thin layer of shrimp mixture on one slice and press, another slice down on this, having the sandwich meat in appearance. Lay 2 tiny tender shoots of celery on top of each sandwich and across the celery lay two narrow strips of pimento.
—Mrs. A. W. S.

One tablespoon butter, 1/4 cup grated horseradish, 1 tomato, bread. Mix butter, horseradish, and mayonnaise together. Skin and slice tomato, sprinkle with salt and paprika. Spread thin slices of bread and butter with the mixture and put slices of tomato between, cut into fancy shapes and garnish with parsley.

If you decide to prepare and attempt to enjoy a sandwich inspired by this offering, be sure to send a picture to


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