Calloo, Callay…

Today is St. Valentine’s Day. A commercial celebration of a person who apparently was murdered under Roman governmental decree. Also a person who is said to have cured blindness and deafness by the laying on of hands. His murder is reportedly to have been because he advocated one religion when the government of the time wished the population to participate in a different one.

I have very sensibly purchased a card full of saccharine and a gift full of sugar. I shall give it to someone, who will not, I presume, murder me. It was not a cheap card but you have to be sure with these things. I am still allowed to treat with deity on my own terms, but dealing with the loved one requires a little more circumspection. Heaven can only throw thunderbolts during storms but the wife can do it no matter what the weather.

If this sounds cynical, it is. But it does lead to a number of questions for the student of superstitions. Is St. Valentine’s Day valid for people who are not of his religion? There are lots of us in lots of different divisions of faith…but we all have sweethearts – if we’re lucky – and the commercial pressure is on to promote romance, flowers, jewellery, and confectionery. I don’t think the sellers of canned lovey dovey will check to see if you are the right sort to follow a saint.

I don’t mind romance, love, sex, or anything else that fills up the hours between breakfast and late-night cocoa. I’m up for anything as long as it doesn’t involve teenage music or strobe lights in the eyes. A quiet exchange of expensive cards is fine.

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The Lingerie Shop – Retail Clothing Part Eight

No man should ever enter a lingerie shop for any purpose. There is nothing he can do there that will produce a good result – even if he buys the perfect set of lace nothings for his light of love. Because his light will not appreciate them.

The thing that the man wants to see is not the thing that the light wants to wear. Indeed, if the man were to canvas the light for an honest answer – and get it – he would be shopping in the flannelette aisle of Big W. It is a sad thing to have one’s dreams shattered, but even sadder to have it done with a fire axe.

” But what of Victoria’s Secret? ” I hear you ask. Victoria doesn’t have  secret. She’s a tart and that’s all there is to it. The lingerie is a work-related expense, and a pretty poor value-for-money one at that. Compare the lifespan of the average lace step-in to that of a pair of Yakka overalls and see which one helps out with your bottom line. Fortunate indeed the working girl who can cater to her trade in denim and nylon straps. Though it does get a bit itchy around the edges.

Of course there is the question of size. You can get it right and you can get it wrong, but if you get it wrong by buying too large a garment, you ain’t gonna get it.

 

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.

Another New Year Dawns

Is this one the Ukrainians? Or the Doukhobors? Or the Irish?

No, wait – this one’s the Chinese. Apparently we are about to hit the Year Of The Pig.

Ah, good old Chinese. They have the right idea. Declare a new year that is named after something you can eat. Pig, rabbit, rooster, snake, etc. Not so sure I fancy rat or dragon, but someone somewhere is tossing them in flour and heating a wok. In any case it makes a very practical way to characterise a celebration.

Not so the various UN and other intellectual organisations who declare Years Of The Fashionably Oppressed or Years Of The Ousted Government. If they were to declare the Year Of Paying Their Rent or Year Of Removing Tribal Leaders As Presidents For Life it might lead to more celebrations. If they could persuade the Chinese to declare a Year Of Eating The Presidents For Life they might get somewhere…but you’d need an awful lot of hoi sin sauce…

I shall avoid the dragons and the drums this year, but not the buffet. I may not be a good chopstick eater but I can manage some dishes without flinging chunks past the other diners or stabbing myself in the eye. I shall throw salad at the ceiling, however…

 

I Must Have The Wrong Post Office

I read repeated complaints about our postal service – Australia Post. As well as the loss of posted items there is the performance of the delivery service and the terrible manners of the counter staff in the actual post offices. Social media are rife with angst. Yet I seem to have missed out.

I deal with my local post office agency in a small shop in Bull Creek Shopping Centre. It is a dedicated affair – not shared with a newsagency or other business. The staff seem a constant lot – it may be that they are members of a family.

I buy stamps, CD mailers, envelopes, and pay many of my bills over their counter. They are efficient, cheerful, and invariably polite. We exchange ” Good Morning  ” greetings and please and thank you as a matter of course. They are extremely obliging about helping me to fill out any overseas forms needed if there is unusual postage required.

If this same family were to migrate to another business I would follow them there for the level of kindness and civility that they show.

And I do not have any trouble with postal deliveries either.

Expectorate Me In The Morning

If the bed can spit me out, that is.

Retirement resets your clocks, that’s for sure. When employed away from home I was up at 6:00 or 6:30 each morning for a drive to surgery or shop. 48 years of rise and flaming shine. Then the handshake, fountain pen, and valedictory speech…and the alarm on the clock could be turned off.

I was surprised just how quickly I dropped the early routine. It was no conscious decision – I just woke up when I wanted to wake up, and the want-to advanced to about 8:30 in the morning.  I must say it has made a difference to how I greet the day. As the bathroom is not so icy and dim, neither am I. I can do my 20 minute ablutions cheerfully, then dress and make the bed before wandering toward the coffee pot.

I do have a place to go to – vital to anyone’s well-being –  and it is this keyboard. I’ve four columns to launch each morning and I pride myself on getting them out regularly. The rest of the day may have work or travel or hobby activity, but you have to have that morning intellectual jolt to get going.

Oddly enough, I do not read the comics in the morning – they are a treat reserved for late afternoon – rather like an evening paper.

I do enjoy rush hour on the roads, however. Enjoy it enormously. Can’t get enough of not being out there in the middle of it. It is a daily joy to see the road ragers roaring by and to hear their screams as they collide with each other.

And I enjoy grocery shopping – because I can go when the tills are open and the staff are relaxed. So many foods to see. If only I knew how to cook them properly.

 

The Oslo Lunch – Part Two

Lunchtime was a bittersweet experience for me as a child. Oh, not when I was at home –  lunch was lunch, and if there were brown ‘n serve sausages and eggs, chicken noodle soup, or bologna sandwiches, all was right with the world. The problem was at school.

As I mentioned before, some schools in the US and Canada served hot lunches for the students. They were simple meals, with soups, stews, macaroni and cheese, or other staples forming a large part of the menu. There were hot dogs, but rarely hamburgers. There was always some form of vegetable and/or fruit and most school canteens had no carbonated drinks – you got milk, orange, or apple juice. I sometimes ate at the schools that had a lunch canteen and I think my mother appreciated not having to put up sandwiches.

It was only later that I reflected that these lunches might have been the only meal that some of the students got all day. We were not living in inner-city ghettos – these were suburban schools – but there was a level of neglect there that I did not see in the 6th grade. I did get to see it in the 8th grade when we moved to a bush area for dam construction. The camp children were 15 miles from the school and were bussed in by the company, so it was tin lunchboxes and thermos flasks for lunch.

My lunch was varied – soup or beans in the thermos in the winter, milk or juice in the summer. A sandwich, a couple of cookies, and a piece of fruit. The occasional treat of a square of chocolate. I was never hungry at lunch…But I do not know whether the other camp children were as lucky. I know some of the local children from the bush town were not – and lunch time for them was hungry, sad, and pointless.

There were paper sack lunches that seemed to be two pieces of dry bread with uncooked bacon in between. Or jam sandwiches. Or just a candy bar. Or nothing. Part of the hostility I experienced at the time was due to academic achievement and part of it was probably envy at my lunch. I was at a loss as to what to do in either case, so I just kept studying and eating by myself.

In retrospect, I can’t say whether poverty or ignorance or just lack of care was the cause of their problem, but if ever a school needed a lunch program it was Lodgepole Elementary.