Searching for the heart of a nation... in the throat of its people.


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December 2006
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Extruding America 3: A Very Extruded Christmas Christmas comes to Battersea, as a storm hits the American Northwest.

Direct download: Extruding_America_3A.m4a
Category:Podcasts -- posted at: 7:59am PDT

Ma Po Dofu for All! Many of you have expressed concern and/or outright puzzlement concerning Episode #2 and its manifold references to the Chinese dish Ma Po Dofu.  For edification and satiation we are including the following recipe - Gerard


3 tablespoons peanut oil
1/4 pound ground pork
1 tablespoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon chopped garlic or to taste
3 teaspoons hot bean sauce (or chili garlic sauce)
3 teaspoons black bean sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water
1 pound fresh soft bean curd (or medium or firm) cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup chopped scallions, including half of the green tops
Salt and ground Szechwan pepper to taste

(IMPORTANT NOTE: the Szechwan pepper tree, in China, has, in recent years, been infected with a canker of some kind, and the ban on importation of this beautiful spice has only recently been lifted.  As a result, do NOT roast the pepper, as is required in many recipes (because the pepper now has to be heat-treated before it leaves China.).  It can be added (and should be finely ground) to recipes, but usually near the end, or, at the very least, unroasted.)

In wok over high heat, heat the oil.  When hot, add meat, stir fry until lightly brown (2 minutes).
Add ginger, garlic, hot bean sauce and black bean sauce to taste.
Add rice wine and stir fry for 20 seconds.
Pour in stock, bring to boil.  Simmer, stirring frequently 3 to 4 minutes to blend flavors.
Add cornstarch and cook, stirring slowly until thickened (about a minute.)
Fold in bean curd and green onions. 
Heat gently, seasoning with salt.
Transfer to warm bowl, season generously with Szechwan pepper and serve immediately.

Category:Battersea Confidential -- posted at: 8:47am PDT

Extruding America 2: Isolation Gerard phones Stetson for his weekly impressions of life in Battersea; Stetson introduces more of the memorable denizens of this hermetically sealed community with an odd culinary detour.
Direct download: Extruding_America_2A.m4a
Category:Podcasts -- posted at: 12:30pm PDT

Extruding America 1: Introductions Won't you join me, Gerard  Armbruster, as we search for the heart of a nation in the throats of its people, as they tell the stories that are... Extruding America.  This week, our first call to Stetson Tudd for his Postcard from Battersea sets the stage for all that is to come.
Direct download: Extruding_America_1.m4a
Category:Podcasts -- posted at: 1:36pm PDT

Outside Looking In by Gerard Armbruster Not long ago, in order to keep an outsider's perspective on our own culture, I decided to cultivate an interest in the South Asian cinema, more specifically the body of work produced in the city of Mumbai.   This oeuvre is of course more popularly referred to as the films of Bollywood, though that nickname is based on the city's previous title, Bombay, so named by the Portuguese in 1534, as Bom Baia, or "good bay".  It is a firm conviction of mine that, when Bombay was renamed Mumbai, the popular name Bollywood should have been changed to Mumblywood.

But that's neither here nor there.

What is germane is that I sought out and found, in the city of Artesia, southern California's Little India, a neighborhood cinema that showed only movies of Bollywood.  Finding my seat, I experienced the dimming of the lights with a somewhat skeptical outsider's perspective, and began to make the acquaintance of the heroes on the screen: the Big B himself, Amitabh Bachchan, the suave rogue and trickster Shahrukh Khan, the boyishly earnest Hrithik Roshan.  Caught up in the heady and somewhat arrogant rush of the cultural explorer, I unwrapped a tinfoil packet I had purchased at the snack bar, and found an intensely green leaf folded into a triangle, stuffed with sweet spices and seeds labeled "mitha paan: Fresh!"  Imagine my surprise when, in the very act of sampling the exotic treat, I witnessed Shahrukh Khan on the screen, pop one of the very same delicacies into his mouth and start acting goofy, dancing with wild abandon, rolling his eyes, winking knowingly as he addictively consumed the little green triangles, his gyrations becoming absolutely manic and hysterical. I froze and stared at the treat in my own hand.  Had my tongue suddenly become numb and tingling at the same time?  Were the colors of  the saris on the screen just a little brighter  and more intriguing?  Had everything in my immediate vicinity just become far more profound or at least hilarious than it had been just moments before?

With a gasp, I fled the theater in horror, images flooding my mind of myself as a lone dope-crazed dancer, running wild down the aisle, prancing and cavorting in front of the screen, to the complete cultural and personal embarrassment of all involved, being asked politely by the management to leave, possibly leading to my arrest and subsequent vilification in the press, and blacklisting by the podcasting community.

As I dried my tears in the alley behind the theater, and tried to steady the spinning world, a profound depression settled upon my reeling frontal lobes, which pervades still.  Seduced by the illusion I could remain an impartial outsider, I am now trapped by the span of my lifetime.  Shahrukh or Amitabh will never lay a hand on my shoulder and call me brother.  I will stare at them across a cultural divide as wide as the world and as deep as the bottom of our souls, and wish that I could stand with them on the other side, in that colorful, vibrant land of adventure, music and life.

Category:Armbruster's Musings -- posted at: 10:20am PDT

My Town's Name by Stetson Tudd My town's name is Battersea, roughly 39 miles south of Seattle, and, strangely, with a population the size of Tacoma's my neighbor 2 miles to the south.  Oddly, we show up on no maps, even though we are the sixth largest seaport in the contiguous U.S.  We are an hermetically sealed, sometimes racist, always hard working, hardscrabble community, pretending, occasionally to be hip, always failing at that, with nary much in the way of culture.  We were poised to be the largest city in the Northwest, until the Great Northern Railway blasted its way through Stevens Pass, in the Cascade Mountains north of Seattle, back in the late 19th century.    Put us almost out of business, and definitely out of the way.  Not irrelevant.  Just hardworking and sleepy at the same time.

Category:Battersea Confidential -- posted at: 11:00am PDT

Mission Statement by Gerard Armbruster Every week I, Gerard Armbruster, ask you to take a wrong turn with me off life's interstate, and discover the straight story about the bend in the road, where nestle the small towns with big characters, to tug on the common thread that unravels the hand-me-down sweater of our national zeitgeist, and extrudes the truth of our lives.
Category:Armbruster's Musings -- posted at: 10:57am PDT

Contact Info

To contact Gerard Armbruster or Stetson Tudd, or for behind-the-scenes information:

Bruce Dean designed the Extruding America logo.   His impeccable artistic sensibilities can be viewed at:

Category:Contact Info -- posted at: 4:19pm PDT

Behind the Scenes

Eric Luke (Gerard Armbruster) and Stetson Tudd (not at liberty to reveal identity at this time) have enjoyed a long and hardy acquaintance.  Their collaborations include the seminal storefront performance group The Meat and Soap Theatre (with Christopher Mills) which played to sold-out houses for one summer in San Francisco's North Beach, but ended in a New Year's Eve show for Singles Over 40 that they still consider one of the most disturbing events of their formative years.  Their times in Mar Vista with the inestimable Ken Sailor continue to inform their lives and creative efforts.

Contact them at:

Bruce Dean designed the Extruding America logo.  His impeccable artistic sensibilities can be viewed at:

Category:Behind the Scenes -- posted at: 3:28pm PDT