Free Food

No, I’m not going to tell you where I live or what time dinner is served. I’ve done that before and the results weren’t pretty. 32 people turned up expecting to get fed because the food was free.

But I’m perfectly happy to feed one person for free – as along as that one person is me.

I come home from a lot of events that happen through meal times; dance shows, weddings, club meetings, etc. and I’ve frequently been too busy to grab a bite at the regular time. No problems – I just set my clock back a bit and figure to eat later. After all, there are plenty of fast food outlets clustered around my house – all I have to do is call in and get dinner, right?

Wrong. The fast food outlets may sell fast food, all right  – but it is food that encourages you to fast. Greasy, sugary, bland, and tasteless – and that’s only the soda pop. The semi-solid stuff is worse. Plus they charge multiples of $ 5.00 bills for everything. I have a loving relationship with my $ 5.00 bills and I grieve to see them go.

So I come home, rather than go out, and cook here. There is nearly always an alternative dish here that can be up and running within a half hour. My go-to meals include:

  1. The cheese toastie. With garlic and herb sprinkle and some cracked black pepper, a properly made Australian cheese toastie can stand in any culinary company. If I include sliced tomato I can even count it as healthy despite the fact that it will burn the roof of my mouth. Burns are a small price.
  2. Staggs chili. Canned, admittedly, and probably made of recycled Mexicans, but a delight nevertheless. One bowl will fill you for half a day. Let’s not wall it off…
  3. Sardines on toast. You have to make an extra slice as someone always drifts by and takes it. Use lots of salt and pepper and some seafood sauce and it becomes a world-famous savoury.
  4. 2-minute Indonesian noodles with added extras. The extras can be anything that has not yet escaped from the ice box; green pepper slices, chicken meat, bacon, sun-dried tomato slices, dubious mushrooms. You can 2-minute boil ’em in a wok and then throw the water out and spend another 2 minutes stir-frying in whatever you have found to make a real dish. Get yer Asian on.
  5. Onions, peppers, tomatoes, garlic; fry ’em up, and then all you need is a couple of slices of toast upon which to heap it. Oregano and basil are nice too. No meat? No matter.

Note that for all these good things you pay nothing – because the wife has already stocked them in the pantry or they are leftovers in the ice box. You keep your $ 5.00 bills safe and comfortable in your wallet. And you eat well.

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Promoting The Causes

Last month I watched  people promoting their causes. Well actually, not their causes as such – more a case of causes that they agreed with. Or seem to agree with. Or were paid to agree with.

I am now wondering a lot of things about them. Did they believe what they said? Did they say what they believed? Have they read any of the stuff they clicked over at everyone on the social media site? Or was it all just a sham performance designed to get our attention  – not on the causes – but on them?

Well, we’ll find out in two weeks when I start following the news feed again. A lot may have happened in this month, and that may change the way they think or the things they say. At least it will serve as a test to see if they change either their minds or the topic. In case that sounds a strange combination, remember that the definition of a fanatic is one who will do neither.

Note: I do favour goodness over badness and virtue over vice. But I may see these items in a far different light than you. To save time and trouble let’s just proceed from the premise that I am right and you are wrong, and you can apologise and offer compensation for your errors later. It is not an onerous demand – I can be bought off with baked goods.

Never Mind The Chicken Soup For The Soul

Souls can take care of themselves.  What we’re making here is chicken soup for dinner.

Last night was roast chicken night. With potatoes, sweet potatoes, and whatever else was sitting in the vegetable locker at our house. The whole lot went into a big old covered roasting pan, which in turn went into an oven at 200º C…and then the cook went out and built model airplanes in his Little Workshop.

And they are coming along splendidly, thank you. The main thing was that the cooking process was quite slow and quite simple – and the roast chicken was appreciated by all concerned.

Not eaten all up, however, and that brought me to the kitchen bench this morning. I stripped the carcass of all usable meat and then boiled the bones a little. This, and the jelly left over in the roasting pan, went to make a superb stock – into which everything else that has been hiding in the back of the icebox was dropped. Carrots, peas, a crust of stale bread, a half-cut onion…( It had been drinking…) plus a little more black pepper and a handful of herbs.

The cook is going back out to the Little Workshop and is going to glue landing gear onto airplanes – and tonight’s dinner will again make itself. The point is you do not need to hover over your stove like a TV chef if you have the right ingredients and the right containers. And you do not need to plate it out with a raspberry pureé…

Hint: go look through the Goodwill Store for cooking pots that have proved that they can do their job. Never mind the fancy new kitchen store stuff. Here’s the 1940’s metal roasting pan minus one of its handles which my Dad never did get around to fixing in 1954…I have not got round to fixing it quite yet, myself.

Addendum: The soup was delicious – and there is a pot of leftover soup in the icebox for tomorrow. We live good here.

Old People And Black Pepper

When I was a very young people, black pepper came in finely divided form in shakers. Together with salt, it appeared at every table in the land, and you could shake it on whatever you fancied. As a child you learned ice cream and pepper is a mistake.

Then it became fashionable to have freshly-ground black pepper – this was about 1959. It appeared at restaurants and in trendy houses in improbably tall hand grinders. An improvement, though in restaurants the grinders were wielded by supercilious waiters who hovered. They still hover to this day, but not when I can get a radar lock on them and activate the Rapier Missile System.

Here at home we also have grinders – some are simple disposable things from IGA that dispense their contents gradually and then can be discarded. There is also an unused coffee mill that makes short work of whole black peppercorns -the results are fine for cooking…but…

But when you are an old people, you have a problem. You can still savour the black pepper, but your gums have receded and you are getting triangular spaces between your teeth. It’s natural, can be kept in check, and need not dismay you – until you eat black pepper and the flecks get in there between your teeth.

You’ll be fine in the main course, but once dessert comes and possibly after-dinner mints, it is a horrid nuisance to have the pepper work its way out and jump into the sweets. Nothing stops ice cream faster than black pepper. Black pepper coffee is to be avoided.

At home you can jump up and brush and floss, but dining out denies this. The best remedy I have found is the shake up a bottle of seltzer and squirt it in there from a foot away – blasts away the stubborn black specks and leaves you fresh for later. Just warn your dinner partner…

The Courage To Correct A Mistake

Please note that I am not writing about the mistakes of others. I am writing about my own blunders.

For blunders there are, in every day I live. I’m not in practice anymore or employed behind a shop counter, so my errors are of less consequence than before. But I am still driving on the roads and living in my own house – and pursuing several hobbies and arts – and being wrong about something, somewhere, is a daily occurrence.

Lord, save me from the road error – there is too little margin for it in today’s high speed world and too few people willing to make allowances for me. Just get me there and back safely, please.

I would also like the occasional helping hand in the kitchen and the Little Workshop. I am ashamed when I burn a dinner or spoil a paint job and I know it is somewhat of a moral failing that I get angry at myself when this happens.

Please calm me down, and get me started clearing up the mess and correcting the error. It’s the only way that I feel I can claw back traction in the day. I realise that the substitute dinner may be less fancy, but please make it at least as nourishing. I know I’ll always look askance at the model airplane with the re-done finish, but please let it be a reasonably decent repair. I’ve seen enough real aircraft that looked battered.

Also please let me have the moral courage to see when something needs to stop or start, and the fortitude to actually do either thing.

Adopt A Granny

Or adopt a Mum. Or a Wife. Or a Girlfriend. And none of them need to be your own, either.

What you are looking for is skill and talent. Cooking, sewing, gardening…whatever you lack in your life right now that someone else knows how to do is the thing to aim for. You are looking for the best.

It may be a long and difficult search, but you can make it a little easier by making it more scientific. To start with, identify what it is you need. If your icebox contains nothing but an empty pizza box and a carton of green and black spotted yoghurt, it is a cook you need. If your sock drawer has more holes than socks, you need a clothing specialist. Look at the garden critically – if it stares back, it’s the gardening enthusiast for you.

Trial the candidates with a standard test – if you are a spaghetti fan, get all the possibles for adoption to cook spaghetti. If it is curry – have them submit pots of vindaloo then compare and contrast. Note: calls for spaghetti may attract Italian grannies and they are fierce. Be careful.

Do not be ashamed to admit your faults. All the rest of us see them and we’ll admit them for you at the drop of a hat. And do not feel that you are doing a bad thing – you will be filling out formal adoption papers and lodging them with the Department, so it will all be legal. After all, there is a lot of responsibility to adopting a child, and they are small, so how much more will there be if you go for a full-sized grandmother.

Of course this is not the Ivory Coast. There’ll be no kidnapping or chains. You will be providing a granny flat to whomever you adopt and as much food, coal, and candles as they need throughout the year. You’ll have to provide a full wardrobe, though if it’s a cooking granny  that you get, a lot of this will consist of aprons and oven mittens. There will be a salary, days off, and remember that grannies can drink a lot more rum than you’d think. It don’t all go into the fruitcakes…

Will this make you a better person? No, but it will make you a better-fed one and that is a start. Once you have gotten past the hangry stage you may find that you are holding skeins of wool for knitting and taking her out to tea shoppes on Sunday afternoon.

 

Sauce Pot!

Keen-eyed readers who like mystery novels and television shows may wish to turn their detective powers onto the heading image and see if they can figure out what we are having for dinner.

Winter has arived in Perth with prescribed burn-offs in the bush and lowering temperatures. The crayfish salad and tiny cold delicacy on the vast white plate has given way to food that will actually fuel the boiler. As the local fast food chains have decided to eliminate taste from their products – having gotten rid of nutrition some years ago – and the pubs have finally given in to their accountants and started charging $ 75 for a piece of steak ( Saw the menu the other night – still on oxygen. ), I’ve decided to make our own dinners.

This dish is no closer to traditional Italian cuisine than the local IGA supermarket shelves. As the checkout girl has dark hair I pretend she is from Milano and that makes it all authentic. If I lived in North Perth or the City of Stirling it might actually be, but I suspect the people who make the sauces and the pasta probably came from there a hundred years ago so we’ll go with that. And none of this nouvelle cuisine serving stuff – when we get a plate of dinner we want more dinner than plate on the table. Oozing over the edge is not considered a flaw.

There will be red wine and it will be extremely cheap. Like $5 for a 2 litre cask. It’s time-expired Yalumba from the local bottle shop and if you drink it without letting it hit your taste buds it is fine. Actually it IS tasty, and the business of ” best by ” dates is a bit of a frandoogle when you are talking about basic blended goon. It is cheaper than drinking lacquer thinner or motor oil.