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Campy cooking with the 'Surreal Gourmet'

Blumer dishes up creative fare for our 'inner child'  

July 21, 2000
Web posted at: 3:54 p.m. EDT (1954 GMT)

(CNN) -- He calls himself the "Surreal Gourmet," but under his breath, Bob Blumer admits he creates crazy cuisine just to meet girls.

"I'm just a big kid," says Blumer, a lopsided grin spreading like butter across his face.

Does he really stack salmon in the dishwasher and singe cheese sandwiches with an iron all in the name of love? Does he really think the giant, metal Airstream trailer he drives, dubbed the "Toaster Mobile" because of the giant pieces of bread popping out of the top, is a chick magnet?

Whatever the motivation, it is clear Blumer is not afraid to play with his food -- and create tasty, fun dishes in the process.

In his latest cookbook, "Off the Eaten Path," Blumer turns ordinary dishes into surreal meals with his unconventional cooking techniques. What is the secret to preparing a dishwasher-safe fish?


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"Make sure other items in the dishwasher, such as silverware, are securely stowed so that they do not fly around and pierce the foil packets," he advises in his book.

A special section devoted to engine cooking holds advice for the speed demon in all of us. "Anyone who can operate a motor vehicle can improve their standard of eating on the road," he says.

His Six-cylinder Trout with Fresh Sage recipe is fancy enough for any well-traveled gourmand, but its simplicity is the driving force behind the meal. All you need is fresh trout, salt, pepper, lemon, sage and butter ... oh and foil, lots of foil.

But this culinary cut-up doesn't stop there. Blumer's well-thought-out advice on wine is strewn throughout the book and he even suggests appropriate music for his meals. What should you listen to as you tear down the highway with a trout braising gently on your exhaust manifold cover? Blumer suggests ACDC's "Highway to Hell" or Merle Haggard's "Lonesome Fugitive: The Merle Haggard Anthology."

"I start with a serious recipe -- something designed around the taste," he says, "and I find whimsical ways of preparing them."

While his cookbook could never be called "serious," there is a good collection of recipes underneath the campy cover.

The Brown-bagged Sea Bass with Papaya Salsa is tantalizing with a tasty soy-lime-ginger topping. The sea bass fillets are stuffed into brown paper lunch bags that have been saturated with olive oil. The bags stuffed with fish are then baked in the oven. The result is a tender, moist fish. For those who know their way around a Cuisinart, this method of cooking may seem familiar. It is simply a low-brow version of the French technique Cooking en Papillote -- or cooking in parchment paper.

"I am just trying to take the fear out of cooking," says Blumer. "I'm self-taught, so I don't do the scary stuff myself."

Not for the well-mannered, Martha Stewart types among us, this cookbook taunts and titilates. Where else would a recipe for Shrimp "on the Bar-B" include a leggy, plastic doll on the ingredients list?

Many of the recipes make good parent-child projects. For instance, Blumer's eye-catching Pound Cake "Fries" with Raspberry "Catsup" dessert is fun to make, and easy enough for children to prepare with a parent's guiding hand. Try tempting your pint-sized finicky eater with the "Diced" Fish recipe -- where filets of fish studded with peppercorns literally resemble fuzzy dice.

"I can never tell if I am always working," he says, "or always playing." His irrevereant style is not just evident in the cookbooks he writes and designs himself (this is his third), but it is also obvious in the way this chef travels.

In 1991 Blumer took time off from his 12-year gig as music manager for Canadian singer/songwriter Jane Siberry to write and design his first book, "The Surreal Gourmet: Real Food for Pretend Chefs." His imaginitive style quickly drew a loyal following, and his work was favorably reviewed by "The New York Times," "The San Francisco Chronicle," and others.

Three years later, Blumer completed his second cookbook, "The Surreal Gourmet Entertains: High Fun, Low-Stress Dinner Parties for 6-12."

It may look like a giant toaster, but inside his trailer, Blumer has a state-of-the-art kitchen  

With his latest offering, Blumer has definitley found his niche. Has the sweet taste of success spoiled him?

"Everyday is better than the last one," he says.

Blumer makes very few long-term plans and cannot say whether there will be a fourth book in the "Surreal Gourmet" series. The only definite plan he has for the immediate future is a trip to a French winery, where he will pick grapes for the season.

For now, however, Blumer continues to steer a large trailer that looks like a toaster but is custom-designed with a working kitchen inside. Blumer visits places like San Francisco, Boston, Atlanta and Memphis, and he stops all along the way to cook meals and meet folks.

"People always ask me where I got this (toaster mobile), like I just got it off the rack," Blumer laughs. "I am threatening to auction it off on eBay."

So, has BLumer's plan paid off? Do chicks really dig the chef in the big, funny-looking trailer?

Blumer just smiles and munches on a pan-seared shrimp. He isn't one to eat and tell.

Entertaining? 'Keep it simple'
July 17, 2000
Campfire cooking now cowboy cuisine in Las Vegas
July 7, 2000
Great Chefs: The emphasis is on vegetables
July 6, 2000

The Surreal Gourmet
Salon Magazine Wanderlust Archive: The Surreal Gourmet -- The Surreal Gourmet
The Culinary Closet

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