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.

 

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The Brew

I have friends who are brave, courageous, and bold…like Robin Hood they wear tights and shoot arrows into things. In many cases intentionally. But they harbour a dark secret…they all want to be moonshiners.

Not necessarily with corn liquor stills, shotguns, and rusty old trucks…they set their sights lower – they try to make booze from whatever is available and they try to do it in medieval ways. Sometimes they succeed.

I can’t tell you whether this is illegal, as our state has a welter of alcohol laws that have developed over time and so many people who cheerfully disregard them. It may be perfectly correct to make liqueur out of chicken feet provided you are a member of a religion that wears feather suits and clucks. And certainly there are beer stores that sell you the ingredients for home-brew beer quite legitimately and the only consequence you suffer is gas.

However, that’s commercial ingredients and known formulae…it gets more dangerous when people take recipes off the internet, consult someone’s Uncle Marko, or just look at a pile of vegetables about to rot and decide to wing it. The temptation to mash them up, add yeast, and bottle the result is satisfying to start with but becomes increasingly less so as the bottles detonate in the pantry.

It is generally a case of over-egging the pudding…or over filling and over nourishing the yeast. There is a reason distilling is done in big metal containers and far away from valuables…the same reason that they make gunpowder in small batches in wooden buildings.

The danger of fermentation and bottling over, the next hurdle is storage. Storage space for homemade booze falls into two categories; too cold or too hot. You are either going to end up with a bottled version of the city compost digester or Picatinny arsenal in a lightning storm. If you have bottled in glass the shrapnel damage will be spectacular, but even a PTFE bottle going off will get the neighbours out of their houses and the dogs barking.

Finally you will get to the day when you can taste the results. There may be far fewer bottles than when you started, and the economic results may make each one the equivalent of Dom Perignon ’22, but don’t expect to win gold medals. Most home-made liquor is best cut with fruit juice, soft drink, or motor oil. A good 20-40 weight should do it…I always liked to use Bardahl if the homebrew was particularly new.

Are You Drunk, Sir?

God, I hope so.

I’m lookin’ at you, Jimmy,  and if that’s what you look like a’ the time I dinna want to sober up.

The business of being drunk is a curious one. At one time it seemed to be the most frightening and disreputable state of being that you could experience. It was not hard to get to the edge of it when I was 17 –  a small glass of 4.7% Swan Lager was enough to do it to a youth unused to alcohol. Fortunately my parents were smart enough to pour this for me before or during a family dinner and I could be induced to recognise the effects without being out in public or on the road.

Drunk is a relative word – as the police are not your relatives, they apply a more stringent definition of it than the family at a Christmas party, but the basics of it are an altered sense of balance, perception, and thought. When you have altered these enough to be herking on your shoes, you have gone too far, but it is possible to stop before then. And at the prices that they demand for rum these days, you will be straining to get anywhere near the footwear.

I value the afternoon tot of whatever is in the cabinet as a release from the cares of a morning spent not caring about anything in particular. That is the benefit of retirement – you can hand the need to worry to others and then wander off. But that little burst of ethanol opens the hatches and lets the air in and the fumes out. It must have been dreadful when the Royal Navy stopped the rum ration. I’ll bet the Russians issue vodka from a tub to this day.

There are a lot of posts written post-tot. They tend to be brilliantly funny at the time but are censorable the morning after – that is why I never send them while they are fresh. Some survive the editing process next morning and can be transmitted. Some are trashed.

Both you and I are better for that.

” Pint Of Dog Slobber, Please. “

Do you frequent the bottle shop, as I do? And do you pass down the long rows of wine bottles to what is becoming equally long lines of craft beer shelves and wonder about the names? And about the people who named them?

Lets face it – booze is booze. It contains molecules that make us witty, great dancers, and desirable lovers. It lets us meet people like policemen and magistrates. It keeps us from wasting our money on good clothing or education for the children or a nice place to live. It is one of the most useful fluids there is, apart from cat wee.

But it all looks the same in the container. If the glass of the bottle is darkened you cannot tell whether the contents are red, white, or yellow ( the most popular colours ) and there is no smell to let you know whether the stuff is good or not. You depend upon the label.

Some labels are frank and brutal. ” Beer ” they say, and apart from the mandatory alcohol percentage and address of the conglomerate brewery they tell you nothing. You take it or leave it.

Some labels are very elegant – a simple name in script of a famous vineyard and a year announces all you need to know – but it presumes that you actually know a very great deal more. This sort of marketing also means you will pay a great deal more.

Some are just industrial warehousing codes so that the chain store staff can stack them efficiently. You might find as much information on a bean can label. Most of these fluids are fairly safe to drink but do not expect them to be a revelation of untold paradise.

But the real chancers – the lotteries of the taste buds – are the labels that the craft brewer ( read guys in Industrial Unit 83A ) or small winemaker ( Unit 83B ) nut out when they finally have the corks in and it’s time to fire up the printer. I will give them points for imagination and verve. Also for crass and edgy. But the problem is that “Harry’s Hop Swill ” or ” The Last Evocation Of Evanescence ” sound good when you’re sitting at the computer half-cut on the last of the vat, but they do not tell the customer a thing.

Perhaps that is the idea. Put out an alcoholic punchboard and let people take their chances with whatever the pin hits. As long as it is out of the unit and off the shelf, it is a win. The HAZMAT squad can always be bought off.

 

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…

The Role Of Caffeine In Civilization

Caffeine role…? How about the Caffeine Roll – now that would sell! I know people who would queue up for them…shaking hard.

I take coffee. I take tea. I avoid caffeinated soft drinks – but that to keep away from the taste, not the effect. I can stand caffeine in measured doses, and the standard measure seems to be the railway tank car.

The morning will see two cups of Nescafé. Another mid-afternoon, and a strng espresso after dinner. Then another Nescafé at 10:00. It is a wonder I get to sleep before midnight.

We have often been cautioned against this. Just as we have been warned off eggs, meat, sugar, potatoes, and every other foodstuff that has ever been grown, baked, or boiled. And then we have been told that the demon food or devil drink is quite all right…and the attention of the scolding press turns to another thing. I have adopted the sensible attitude that it is all a load of twaddle designed to gain money and power…and ignore the dire warnings. Unless a sandwich is filled with equal parts of dried smallpox scabs and liquid Lewisite, I am prepared to take a bite.

The Wiki entries on coffee and tea show that they come from foreign climes. This would make them suspect for those of the population that subscribe to xenophobia, but it doesn’t answer the question of whether they are healthful and nourishing in the places where they originated. Seeing as the people there are just about as long-lived as the locals here – bar the occasional revolution or tsunami – the health fears would seem to be exaggerated. And seeing as the places where they are used are generally full of citizens who are up and active – for good or ill – it would appear that the caffeine is doing a reasonable job.

Can you have too much coffee? Of course you can, and there are medical records – written in jittery longhand and covered in brown rings – that document the self sacrifices of pioneer doctors who experimented on themselves.

Can you have too little? Go a fortnight without any and then tell me, but don’t weep or scream as you do so. You will disturb my cappuccino.

Bradney Soss

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Court of Christmas Justice would like to welcome you to this afternoon’s execution. We have prepared a criminal for you and will be dispatching him shortly in a spectacular manner.. But let us give you some of he details of his crime before the headsman takes over.

As you know, today is Christmas  Day – a festival day dedicated to kindness and good will towards all. It is also a time when good things are eaten and drunk, often to excess. Boxing day sees many a floor being vigorously scrubbed. There are traditional foods and drinks that bring happiness to all – and one of them is plum pudding with brandy sauce.

Now no-one would accuse the well-known hotel of being stingy with their celebration – they put on a  magnificent buffet within their main ballroom and made sure that there was enough wine, beer, soft drink, and other goodies to fill all. There was music, Santa, attentive staff, and an atmosphere of jollity. Indeed, their dessert line was as long and as replete as anyone could ask for. And they essayed plum pudding with sauce.

I suppose we should have taken warning from the sign that referred to the beige liquid next to the pudding as ” Sauce Anaglise “… It may well have been. I have never visited Anaglise but they may slurp this stuff from tureens. The awkward part is that someone may have thought it to be brandy sauce as the English like it.

The English are a sturdy race. I admire them for this. They can stand a great deal of fire. And they like brandy sauce for their plum pudding that needs to be served with care. They are wise people.

The beige liquid, on the other hand, resembled something that you would normally consult a colour chart for. Come to think of it, a good semi-matte indoor emulsion would probably have tasted better. One would have been prepared to put on two coats.

As it is, we have determined which chef made the sauce and he is waiting in the tumbril for his march up the stairs. Those of you in the front rows may wish to cover your plates when the time comes in case he splashes. It is not so much the fear of blood as the horror of beige liquid.