Strong Drink, Red Meat, And Immodest Laughter

I am a person of my times. But my times may not be right now. I am brought to this conclusion when I read the social media posts that would nag me away from a steak, a glass of whiskey, or a Catskill comedian.

Fortunately I live in a country that will still allow me my choices in nutrition, drink, and comedy. We have not yet had our life’s spectrum changed to shades of grey, pink, or green. We can still cheer for red, white, and blue.

My table is a private one – the comforting centre of a family’s meals. We see meat, red and white, on it regularly. If I am the cook, it is presented as well as I can manage, and I like to think that it has a great deal of comfort. In any case, the plates come to the washing-up sink pretty clean. I’d be happy if I didn’t have to shepherd hem through after that point, but that’s another story…I need not read how sinful I am for feeding my family…

Drink? I rarely rage through the suburb blind drunk and howling. Not that I don’t want to, mind, but the price of liquor these days means the best I can manage is occasionally standing in the front yard naked and singing. The neighbours have stopped watching.

As far as comedy goes, I am a throwback to the days of Wayne and Schuster, Burns and Allen, and Red Skelton. I want my jokes clean. I can mentally supply all the dirty words and political bias needed to spice them up, so the person delivering the comedy can leave them off.

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This Site Uses Cookies

They are used to keep the inner weblog columnist quiet long enough to get a post out. Otherwise it is whinge, moan, and whine all morning long.

Cups of coffee are also used as are cartoons and shots of liquor. Anything to make the news feed from Facebook or the quasi – left press on public radio acceptable. It has gotten a little easier in the last few years as retirement kicked in – no morning or afternoon commutes to inflame the soul – but there are still days that practically beg for a rifle and a water tower.

The preferred cookie is the Arnotts Venetian Biscuit or the Triple Choc Overload. Once the commercial bakers perfect the Quadruple Choc Overload the Triple will be relegated to history. There are technical difficulties – once you get past a certain percentage of chocolate in a biscuit you can’t get it out of the packet in cold weather. Not that it stops the dedicated – we’ve all eaten packaging in our time.

Tim Tams are the belly dancer biscuit. They can be induced to do nearly anything except quieten down with a pack of Tim Tams. Mind you, it’s considered bad sportsmanship to bait a three-gang hook with chocolate biscuits and then go trolling on stage at the dance shows. It looks bad when you are gaffing tribal dancers into the wings…

Home-made cookies, slices, and biscuits are, of course, generally preferred to the commercial offerings. But in the last decade it has become somewhat of a lottery – you never can tell when you’ll encounter the gluten-free, lactose-free, politically correct biscuit. And unless you are prepared for them with a hammer or a crucifix, they can be a frightening sight. It is generally best to approach a plate of new-age biscuits wearing a rubber lab apron and welding mask.

A final note for the people who wish to be superior. I read recently a sneering comment made by someone about commercial cheesecake and how horrible it was meant to be. Having eaten my share of cakes from the very shop that was being disparaged, I can say that the Facebook detractor is being precious. Cake is cake, and if you take it in small doses, frequently, and with adequate coffee, it is a wonderful thing. Commerce is not crime and neither is mudcake.

How Good Are Leftovers?

As a child I hated leftovers…I accused my mother of buying them fresh frozen so that she could serve them every night. There I was…complaining about being fed so well that there was enough food for the next night as well…Yes, you can snort in derision.

Now I treasure them – as much for the time-saving of having a good meal that is 5 minutes away from hot on the table – as for the taste. The taste that in most cases gets better for a night in the fridge. I am talking spaghetti Bolognese, Texican beans, home-made Eternity soup*, casseroles, etc. I’ve even evolved a means for heating and serving day-old fish and chips that makes them good.

And I appreciate the savings of the thing. Part of my brain knows that I have paid for it all, but part of me pretends that the second night is free food. It is certainly better economics than if it were scraped into the recycling bin after the first meal.

I’m a bin. Scrape it into me.

I do not appreciate this approach when out for a commercial dinner or at some resort or conference. I’ve seen the recycling caterers at work at a big Eastern States do and learned not to approach the canapé tray after the first night – indeed not to approach the scrambled eggs on the breakfast buffet. If you want an egg, get it poached fresh.

But here at home, we do not let our food go over the ” Best By ” date by over 6 months. I regularly scrape and wash the cheese to get the green off. Also the bread. The old trick of calling it ” Dad’s fairy bread ” stopped working after the kids started vomiting.

I have been accused in turn by my daughter of overcatering in some things…oh, the irony. But I notice the L/O lasagna, spaghetti, beans, and Chinese food seems to disappear on a regular basis. So I am still going to play the kitchen by my own rules.

*  No soup ever really finishes or starts – there are elements of the things that have carried over several years – in and out of the freezer. No-one has died from soup yet.

 

Which Is The Organ Of Truth?

And anyone who says ” Wurlitzer ” can leave the room.

No, which of our various parts can be said to be the best suited to determine truth or falsehood.? It’s a good question in an age riddled with fake news, click bait, and product-placement advertising. Here, hold my can of Valley Dew ™ sparkling pea-flavoured, famous throughout the world, beverage and I’ll type out the answer…

Is it the eyes? No, they are transparent structures – designed only to pass information in bulk as it is encountered. They make no judgements, being equally prepared to look at men, women, or Justin Trudeau. You can slip anything past the eyes.

Is it the ears? No again. The ears pick up anything within range – though there is the saving grace that they wear out faster than the eyes. The frequencies of sound that pass through them may stay the same but as people age, they are unable to hear the higher ones. If the makers of pop music and rap could be persuaded to raise their voices three octaves, we oldies would find the world a better place. We are prepared to help them to do this with a pair of bolt cutters.

Is it the sense of touch? Possibly – we can tell a rough surface from a smooth one for the most part, though again as you get older things become much the same. And as you become older, your opportunities to touch soft things diminish. A lot of us have to make do with cardboard cutouts of famous aviators and bagpipe salespeople.

Is it the sense of taste? Taste? That thing with the tongue? Have you ever tried some of the concoctions that a modern cocktail bar serves out? Raspberry Cointreau Rutabaga Surprise? I have no idea whether there was more surprise on the part of myself or the rutabaga. And who would willingly taste a modern politician? Apart, of course, from a White House intern…Ptui…

No, children, the organ of truth is the nose. When something you read, see, hear, or touch has an odour about it…whether it be an odour of fish, horse manure, or sanctity…it is false. Your nose does not lie – it can pick one molecule of rancid oil out of a million clean ones and the same with thoughts. If it stinks, it’s rotten.

Can you smell something? Is it my can of Valley Dew™?

” Dinner is Served “

a. ” I don’t eat that “.

Ah. I’m terribly sorry. I did not know. I’m afraid I neglected to prepare an alternative. And have no other food. It would be terribly rude of me to sit here in front of you and eat while you do not. I’ll just clear the plates away and we can go on to a nice discussion about Kierkegaard or BREXIT. May I get you a cracker and a glass of water?

b. ” I don’t want to eat that “.

Ah. Well, you won’t object if I do? Good. could you pass the oyster sauce, there’s a good fellow…

c. ” I’m afraid we can’t eat that “.

Ah. I know the problem. We’re restricted in our tribe as well. May I get you some fruit? Some tea?

d. ” I’m afraid I’m not allowed to eat “.

Ah. Doctors, eh? I can do you an egg…or a sandwich. Or a salad. Or a triple gin?

e. ” I’m afraid I’m allergic to that “.

Ah. Well, we’ll just pop into the pantry and see if there’s a can of something. Don’t touch the plate and I’ll get you a fresh knife and fork. Only be a minute.

Food is a minefield for many these days. It always was, to some extent, as there were people who had it and people who did not. That worked out well for the well-fed until the hungry cut their heads off. Thankfully we have fewer guillotinings these days than before, but more food intolerances.

The religious sometimes fall back on food laws to keep them from sin. The fact that the laws sometimes keep them from being comfortable dinner guests is sad, though equally, they are shielded from some pretty awful recipes. In the end, food laws are a self-punishing thing…unless someone hijacks them to demand money with menaces from restauranteurs and food suppliers – then it is criminal thuggery disguised in piety.

The genuinely allergic and/or intolerant are in a different boat. For some the avoidance of certain foods and the chemicals related to them can be a matter of life and death. Once they discover their vulnerability, they need to be wary biochemists whenever they dine. Their friends should be too.

The finicky and fussy are difficult customers. They can be so far advanced as gourmets, gourmands, or gorblimeys that any meal shared with them is an ordeal. I have sat at table with people who played the restaurant menu, the staff, and the other dinner guests like a harmonica to satisfy their own need for attention. It was painful – but not something that had to be endured twice…

For myself, there have been times when I really wanted to eat something that was forbidden me and times when I really did not want to eat another treif item. I will not tell you how I resolved the dilemma, but I did gain an appreciation of how to be delicate in those circumstances. The fall-back position was always abstinence, even if you had to push things round a plate until it was cleared. Next meal was in 6 hours, if you were lucky, and you could last for that long and do your own cooking.

 

 

” We’re Out Of Canned Snake “

Well, damn. And I had my heart set on a big plate of dugite in gravy. I’ll have to make do with bread and butter.

I admire the cuisines beloved of many different ethnic groups. Likewise I recognise the artistry inherent in their dances, clothing, and literature…albeit I have no idea what they are saying or doing and the clothing they wear looks as if it was stitched together with brass wire. I figure it is their hides, slides, and insides and not for me to criticise.

Admiration, however, does not mean emulation. In the case of exotic cuisine I am more than happy for it to remain so. If they have shops that cater for their own palates, well and good. I have mine. They include Elmar’s, IGA, and Aldi, and if I cannot suit myself there I can always haunt Coles or Woolies. I wouldn’t think of depriving them of canned insects or vermin in oil. Indeed, come high summer, between myself and the cat, we could probably provide them with all the skittering protein they could handle.

I did try to adapt myself to the influx of Asian grocery shops here in our suburb. Close as we are to an Asian dormitory suburb and a south Asian subdivision, it’s not surprising that there has been a burgeoning in the specialty grocery market. I went to my local one and did my best to understand the items on offer – eventually settling on Yeo’s curry sauce from Singapore as the easiest thing to incorporate in the family menu. It’s never failed, and I always grab a can when I see it.

But when I tried to decipher all the other curry offerings I was stumped – so many canneries, so many flavours, so many different bits of advice on the can. I took a selection of them to the chap at the counter but he said he doesn’t eat that stuff…Hmmm…

I must screw up my courage and go to the Indian grocery next. Surely, if anyone, they will be able to advise me.

PS: Don’t try to con me and make me eat some awful offal to amuse your mates. I won’t do it, no matter what the social circumstance. I won’t be rude – ” Thank you. No. ” is perfectly civil.

Take One Spoon From Bowl A And One From Bowl B…

The family are out tonight.

I am not. Therefore it is incumbent upon me to feed myself without reference to their needs or desires. I can let myself go. And I am letting myself go to the refrigerator and looking to see what’s in the Tupperware. It’s Leftover Night. I couldn’t be happier.

We accumulate plastic bowls of stuff. Potatoes, beans, pasta, Chinese food, casseroles. Nearly everything that is made fresh has an echo. While we do police the shelves to discard stuff that is too old to define, the rest is fair game for the big stir-fry lottery. I am happy to say that I have very rarely managed to make leftovers inedible.

Some tastes do not mix. Milk pudding and fish cakes is a mistake. Taco Bell is never improved by being asked to become Taco Baklava. And nothing that was ever intended for the cat should be diverted to the dinner table.

But everything else is fair game. Ooh…I wish we did have some game. Rabbit, pheasant, moose…Hard to get moose in an Australian suburb – even the Canadian specialty shops make excuses and say they’re sorry they can’t supply it. Well, they would say ” sorry “…they’re Canadians. But what I wouldn’t give for a big ‘ol can of whole moose in gravy.

You can also play the leftover game with desserts. Sweet is sweet, no matter how it is produced, and the meat/milk decisions you might have to make in the main course are swept away for the afters. The problem is that generally there are fewer leftover desserts than other portions of the meals. One solves this by making fresh desserts – it doesn’t pay to be discouraged. I was trifling with the idea of putting cake, sherry, custard, and fruit into a bowl but decided that it would never work.

A note to cooks who put things in Tupperware. TW takes up a surprisingly large volume of space in a fridge. You think it’s all jolly colours and a flexible lid, but the engineers at the Tupperware factory have a secret plan to take over the kitchens of the world. Every container is bigger than you need and the lid makes it bigger still. The clever ones that nest into each other are apt to squeeze everything else out of the appliance – but they are so cute that no-one can resist getting the whole range.

My solution is not to get twee about the food. It will all go into and out of the same holes anyway, so it might as well all be lumped into one big pot in the refrigerator and be done with it. You never can tell – no matter what you throw in there it becomes brown and you may end up for a brief period of time with a Brillat-Savarin winner.