Can’st Thou Wok A Straight Line, Sirrah?

Or art thou condemned to boil thy food?

We are undergoing  bit of an experimental revolution in our kitchen. My wife has decided to cut down on carbohydrates as a health matter, and we are exploring the possibilities with our limited cooking skills.

I say we, but I mean me. I do most of the cooking, and happily. It is a skill that I find rewarding, if only in avoiding starvation and stomach-ache. I carry a few recipes on through the family and from my own bachelor existence and then wing it from there.

So far we have cut down on the potatoes, baked beans, and rice that accompanies many dishes. Also breads and cakes. This is either good or bad, but it’s not the morals we’re looking at – it’s the taste.

Some recipes are fine – we now steam broccoli ( despite George Bush Snr ) and cauliflower and have found out how to make white or cheese sauces for it. We toss cabbage and bok choy in the wok and then try to flavour it up with various oriental spices. Sometimes works, sometimes fails. We eat it either way and just mark the scorecard accordingly. I must say that I am becoming enamoured of the wok  – since we got a heavy-bottomed one from IKEA the action inside it seems to be working pretty well. I appreciate the fast cooking, though there is a lot of chopping up to do beforehand.

I don’t think I’m wokking as well as other people who have  a longer cultural association with it because they know the flavours and the timing of the additions better than I. I also don’t think that the wok is anywhere near the big restaurant ones that sit in a tub of gas flame and have such a range of temperature zones within the bowl. Our stove is electric.

But we try -There is a peculiar fast-food that the frozen vegetable people put out – cauliflower rice – that I am experimenting with. It ain’t rice, just chopped vegetable, but if you sauté it it can give a good texture to other dishes. I suspect other veggies would do the same. Time to resurrect the food processor and go to the greengrocers and the Asian food shops -the tinned Singaporean curry gravy is great.

Chinese Leftovers

No, I’m not talking about Taiwan.

I mean the oblong plastic containers that h0ld the remnants of last night’s takeaway. They  are the most valuable asset that you can find in the fridge:

  1. If you were not a cook last night, it is doubtful whether you will be one tonight. Skill with cuisine doesn’t set in at 3:00PM . Those leftovers are what stands between you and hunger at midnight.
  2. If you look critically at what is in the containers you’re likely to encounter meat, vegetables and rice in considerable quantities. I’ve no idea whether it has gluten, lactose, fructose, sucrose, or twinkletoes, but if you eat a little from each container you are likely to have a balanced meal.
  3. It is all tasty. Depending upon which uncle or cousin was cooking there will be various Asian spices in the mix and enough variety in the textures to make for an interesting dinner.
  4. It is paid for, and will not last longer than another day. Eat now, or waste money. Which should not be a matter for any debate.
  5. We need the container for model airplane parts so hurry up and wash it out.
  6. That’s all that is on the menu tonight. Eat or starve.
  7. You’re allowed to drink Goon with Chinese leftovers with no loss of social status.

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…


Culturally Inappropriate Wrongness In Being Guilty Of Bad

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A few years ago a friend gave me a book that was outraged at westerner’s treatment of easterners. Apparently anyone who isn’t one of them is one of us or one of those and we don’t get to notice it. Or we have to notice it. Or something like that. I think it was complaining about the way North Americans and Europeans portray people who form certain portions of the middle east. Either we were not recognising their cultural differences and we should, or we were recognising their cultural differences and we shouldn’t – in any case it boiled down to the western readers were wrong and the eastern writer was right. Oddly attractive premise, that…if you are an eastern writer. The really interesting thing was the idea of East. East of what? I live at once both east and west of the writer…we all do.

Well, I’ve been wrong on both an amateur and professional basis for 40 years so I feel perfectly at home with the business. I am wrong culturally, ethnically, scientifically, and artistically. I have two coats of hard-baked wrong over an undercoat – my wrongness is durable. I’ve got wrongness going back three generations…

And yet I still survive. Isn’t it terrible? I wear plaid garments that indicate Scottish culture when none of my family has ever been Scottish. I take pictures of belly dancers who have been no closer to Cairo, Ankara, or Mecca than Fremantle and am not ashamed of it. I eat Chinese food from the Bull Creek Chinese restaurant and the closest to that we have ever got is Singapore…

At the same time I am so weak and degenerate that I allow other people to appropriate my culture. Every day they use electricity, antibiotics, and automobiles with no respect for the deeply religious nature of the rituals involved. They even use my language…horrors…( To be fair, they don’t use ALL of my language. A lot of the syllables and participles and some of the adjectives are untouched…)

I don’t know where to start. The business of barring people from the country seems to be in the hands of others, and their choices are somewhat arbitrary. Barring foreigners’ strange ideas is equally difficult, given that we have so many odd ones of our own. I think we have pretty well put our foot down against cannibalism and barn-burning, but ritual slaughter of inconvenient relatives still seems to be on the books, and the death of anyone who opposes the historical leader or the current leadership is perfectly okay. I do not know what the ruling about ice cream is.

To safeguard my reputation and moral integrity I have decided to adopt the three following principles:

  1. To eat no animals that have been killed at the actual dinner table.
  2. To never take the name an prophet, deity, current religious leader, or committee of religious correction in vain.
  3. To refrain from doing the dance of the Wapiti.

In addition, I shall exercise some discretion and respect when in the presence of real estate agents, button merchants, and sequin sellers conducting their trade. Some things are sacred.