Sobering Up and Behaving Properly

I seem to be in the sights of a number of organisations that wish me to obey them. Not just the police and taxation office – now it is the nutritionists, dietitians, and moral reformers. They have selected my home as their target for tonight and I can hear the rumble of bomber engines every time I turn on the internet.

To be fair, I invite this attack myself by clicking on Facebook. It is the equivalent of turning on all the house lights and throwing back the curtains on a moonless night.

I was told to give up alcohol for January – with the promise that it would make my life better. There was a clear inference that if I continued abstinence through the following eleven months I should become a healthy and sane individual. They did not feature a picture of Carrie Nation and her hatchet  on the internet, but I’ll bet they were tempted.

I am also to abstain from all meat, milk, eggs, and other non-vegan foods. This is not being sold to me for my health, but on moral grounds. The pictures used to scold me away from meat are actually worse than those of Carrie in her bonnet.

Occasionally I am warned away from fluoride in my drinking water, soft drinks, natural gas, vaccines, Chinese people, and anything else of which an internet poster does not approve.

Of course, I am always forbidden to approve of the American president, local politicians, Australia Day, horse races, and many more hitherto innocuous subjects. This list grows yearly and is the subject of some cynical betting as to what will be next. Note: 50 years ago I was scolded for using an aluminium cooking pot, which was pretty bizarre at the time…I had no idea the internet would bring so many more sins to light.

I do not resent the posts – they are evidence that people think of my welfare and want the best for me. Of course, this benevolence is not a one-way street. They do expect something in return. If it is not donation of money, it is assistance in promoting Their Glorious Cause. I’m only sorry that heretofore I have not done so…but I fully intend to go to their next torchlight rally at the sports stadium. I like the searchlights and the marching bands…

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To Cook The Dinner You Must Be The Dinner

Professional food people – chefs, fry cooks, army chow sergeants – can cook anything at any time, whether they want to do it or not. That is a trait shared with other professionals – the ability to do a job in spite of everything. Amateurs can barely do it when conditions are perfect – pros can do it under fire. I know – I used to be a professional in a profession and I could indeed do the dance.

But back to food – the amateur cook may be feeding themselves alone or may be doing it for the family as well. There may be good facilities or bad ones – lots of ingredients or very few – but there is one thing absolutely necessary for success. The person making the food must want the food.

Not just want it to succeed or look good or taste good for others. They must want to eat it themselves. If they commit to that, they can do it.

Take a simple fried egg…possibly the most complex food known to man. Escoffier deeply feared eggs. Brillat-Savarin would never allow one to cross the road in front of him. And I have heard it said that eggs swear at Gordon Ramsay…

To make a fried egg you need an egg. And heat. And something that prevents the egg, while frying, from adhering to the hot surface. The egg should be fairly fresh – it need not be warm from the chook’s bum, but likewise do not attempt to cook it if it is already pecking at the toast crumbs on the floor. You can check for freshness by floating an egg in a container of benzene, but do not light a match while you are doing it.

The non-stick frying pans work well while the coating is new but become egg-traps as they wear in. Generally you can figure that when the egg slips around and fries with no grease whatsoever, it is because the coating is new and dinner will taste like Love Canal. When the nerve agents and dead cat extract that comprise the non-stick coating wear off the eggs will taste better but you’ll need to get them out of the pan with a wood chisel.

Spray-can release agent is fine and helps many people to make fibreglass canoes from moulds. They can also be used to free that egg.

I favour bacon grease that is leftover from cooking in the pan just before you crack the egg. It’ll let the egg slide about at a certain point and then you can capture it with the egg-slice and get it onto the toast. Best trick of all is the non-stick pan that has tall, heavy sides and bottom, and can be heated in an oven with a griller element above it. You heat the pan, cook the bacon, transfer this to a warmed dish, and then crack the eggs into the hot fat.

Pop it back under the grill and the eggs cook from both sides in half the time. No more slimeys. No more sticking.

The Dishes

Doing the dishes seems to have been the underlying theme through most of my life.

It was one of the first of the ” chores ” that was assigned to me as a kid – in exchange, I suppose, for my weekly allowance. This was never stinted, I might add, and I was as free to spend or save it as my understanding might dictate. But the dishes were always there.

They are still here. Two or three times daily there is a fill up of the basins – detergent in one and fresh in the other, and the results of four people cooking and eating are dealt with. I do not include the cat as a person – I am able to distinguish species – but the cat dishes get done as well.

In truth I should not complain.

a. If I am doing dishes it is because we have eaten. We had enough money to buy food, a stove to cook it on, and plates to bear it. Being fed is better than being hungry, even if you work afterwards as well as before.

b. We have dishes that can stand cleaning. The people who eat off paper plates or flimsy plastic dishes do themselves, the food, and the environment no good.

c. If it was really that onerous a task, we could buy a dishwashing machine. But we’ve never used one that was satisfactory and the addition of another complexity to life is unappetizing. Just scrub and wipe dry.

All this having been said, it is a pleasure sometimes to take a meal elsewhere – a hotel or restaurant – where the staff may pester for tips or to move you on, but they cannot compel you to the soapy water torture. It makes holiday eating a pleasure.

Lemon-flavoured With Real Lemon-type Fluid ( Reconstituted )

I sincerely wish that the food, drug, cleaning product, and motor oil trades had never heard of lemons. Because as soon as they became aware that the yellow fruit could be squeezed, crushed, ground, pulverized, or synthesized…they insisted on putting it in everything.

Everything.

I like a good lemonade. I like a lemon wedge squeezed over fried fish. Mrs. DeSouza’s Lemon Slice that she makes for the local P&C bake stall every election day is worth getting there early for. And voting for. It beats the Democracy Sausage all hollow.

But I do not wish to encounter the blasted fruit in every recipe, cleaning lotion, face cream, and suppository on the planet. It may be doing wonders for the Vitamin C level and the complexion, but the omnipresence of it eventually makes everything taste the same. And it is not like it makes everything taste Like Mrs. DeSouza’s baked goods – it makes everything taste like Vim Cleansing Creme for the bathroom tiles.

I am also dirty on fruit and herb-infused hand lotions or car deodorants. I want my car to smell of oil and petrol and I want my hands to smell of my car. I want my wife to smell like my wife – not pomegranates and tumbleweed. I married her when she smelled good and she still does as long as she doesn’t roll in the fruit and vegetable bin at Coles.

Note: I am prepared to tolerate a twist of lemon in a martini or manhattan cocktail but only in months that have a vowel in them.

The Logistics Of the Logistics Trade

I went to our local shopping centre this week and had a devil of a time getting out again.

After I parked and did my business, I found the lanes out of the place were largely obstructed by trailer trucks bringing in new produce, groceries, liquor and such. Lines of cars were swapping to the other side of the road and then being halted as the opposing lanes tried to squeeze between two 18-wheelers.

As a retiree I can take this sort of delay in good part – I am not in a hurry. Not so the other drivers, and it would appear that the Christmas spirit has largely evaporated…

I take it that most of this re-supply and logistics work is done at night when the car park is deserted – but that the recent holidays may have emptied the shelves ( they hope! ) and a daylight delivery was necessary. It certainly pointed out the fact that they needed more dedicated docks for the trucks  that were not in the main roads.

In the end, however, I am grateful for the shops being where they are and as well stocked as they are. The fact that I can buy food and drink locally is wonderful.

You Cannot Break Eggs Without Making An Omlette

I think that’s how it goes – it’s one of those memes that sounds profound until you say it aloud eight times. I like to say memes aloud on the train as it gets you a seat and space around you.

Idly, if the om of omlette refers to eggs, and the lette part indicates a small thing…is there a full-sized dish of eggs that is just an om? Perhaps an emu or ostrich ? They never tell you these things on the cooking shows.

Tonight we make one with bacon, champignons, and onion bits. Also whatever herbs and spices are in jars in the pantry. It may involve hundreds and thousands or marzipan icing, if the contents of the shelves are anything to go by. Thankfully, I have a wife who can taste it before I do  – as long as I watch to see for any dangerous signs I should be alright.

End of the week menus are always speculative things – they consist of whatever might be left over in the ice box or overlooked on the pantry shelves. Of course, logic will tell you that whatever has been overlooked has been overlooked for a good reason, but desperation cuisine knows no barriers. If it will fit in a pot it can be cooked.

Sometimes the journey is exciting and sometimes hazardous, but always exciting. The old rules about segregating sweet from sour or liquid from solid can be ignored. It is possible to mix oil with water if you put them both into a sponge and eat that. It is an acquired taste.

Of course, the chief contents of the pantry shelves will become depleted over the week – and if you do your shopping once a month the last week can get pretty much like a Mother Goose rhyme. But you can always count on spices – and packets of sample foods that are given out at supermarket promotions. And then it’s simply a matter of combining the jalapeno marshmallows with the dried capers and the contents of the little sushi soy fish for a sensational Saturday breakfast surprise.

This sort of cooking is one of the explanations of why Gordon Ramsay is the way he is.

 

What’s For Dinner?

I used to ask my mother this question with some trepidation – the answer might not be what I wanted to hear. In fact, it frequently wasn’t what I wanted to eat, either, but it took a few years before we adjusted ourselves to an agreement between the cook and the customer.

Essentially it amounted to me agreeing to eat what was on my plate as long as it did not have liver, kidneys, or eggplant. I wasn’t being precious about it – I just could not, and can not, stand the taste or texture of these foods. I could be bent to liverwurst in small doses and like patés nowadays, but steak and kidney pie or liver and bacon was a case of electing to go to bed hungry rather than gag on it.

These days I am the cook, and the question exercises my ingenuity daily. We have plenty of ingredients in the pantry and freezer, and it is just trying to get a variety into the week as well as a balanced meal on a plate. Sometimes the family is out doing things elsewhere and I am cooking for myself – which generally results in a cold cut and cheese sandwich – and sometimes it is two rather than four to table, but if you have ingredients that are divided sufficiently and are warned about the expected crew, you can size things well. I do not want to leave days of leftovers, but a  couple of extra serves is always handy for lunch next day.

I do appreciate the plates being cleaned, as it shows the meal was a hit. I appreciate them being washed and dried even more…