Old folk at lunch

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Cucumber magic


When you eat out somewhere and order a salad with your meal,  you normally get some cucumber with it.  As it happens I REALLY like cucumber, particularly if it is not long off the vine.  But the salad you get in restaurants is obviously cut up by people who DON'T like cucumber.  It is cut up into such thin slices that you get almost no cucumber taste from them at all.

And I have been experimenting with that.  I make a lot of salads these days and cucumber features in most of them. And what I have found is that the bigger the slice of cucumber, the more you get that great cucumber taste.  And if you have never experienced a great cucumber taste, I suspect that you need to find a better greengrocer.

I slice my cucumbers diagonally, as most restaurants do.  Just cutting them into circles is uncool.  And I cut the slices at least a quarter of an inch thick.  For children of the metric era that is about 1 centimeter (I think).  A slice of cucumber should be a delicious lump!


Enjoy!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Birthday month!



There are 3 of us with birthdays in July, Nanna, Joe and myself. So our celebrations began on the Friday before last.  It was a small informal dinner on my verandah with myself and Anne plus Joe and Kate.  Anne had offered to cook us anything we fancied but I felt like fish & chips so that is what we had.  There is a nearby fish shop that is very good-- called, surprisingly, "Fish Kitchen".  It is opposite the Dutton Park bonefarm.

So I ordered 4 battered Barramundi, chips, a Waldorf salad and some coleslaw.  Anne said there was something missing from the Waldorf salad -- croutons, I think -- and the coleslaw was the worst I have had.  But the fish 'n chips were  brilliant.  Expertly cooked fish n chips are one of life's great pleasures.

I was aware that the English often have vinegar with their fish  n chips so decided to try that  myself for the first time, using just white vinegar.  I liked it!  Somebody may care to advise me whether you put the vinegar on the chips, on the fish or on both.  I put it on the fish.

We had a bottle of Tyrrells Verdelho to wash it down.

Then on the Sunday of that weekend, Jill shouted Anne and me a lunch at her place.  It is a very nice little villa that Jill has made into a very pleasant environment.

Lewis had learnt of my liking for Tyrrells Verdelho so we had that with the dinner.  Jill cooked a very nice meal of seafood and pasta, as she usually does.  For dessert we had pancakes.  I had mine with maple syrup and icecream.

And Jill carried on a great dinner party tradition that most women observe.  She prepared some food which she forgot to bring out -- in the oven as usual.  Good old Lewis eventually reminded her however so we got some rather well-done garlic bread with our meal. It was fine by me.

At one stage I congratulated Jill on her crystal salad servers.  She had inherited them from her mother.  Some people use silver salad servers and Jill has a lot of silver.  Silver reacts with the vinegar in the salad and gives you a nice little dose of silver oxide, which can be toxic.

I made a blunder.  Having recently become a pancake cook of sorts, I congratulated Jill on how nicely done the pancakes were.  It transpired, however, that she had got them from Woolworths!

Anne has recently come back from a cruising holiday and Jill & Lewis seem to cruise half the year away so a lot of the conversation revolved around that.  We also talked a bit about politics as we are all conservative.  Lewis made the point that Turnbull has been unfairly criticised for his narrow win in the Federal election.  As Lewis said, narrow wins are very common in elections, so the result was nothing new.  There is even an explanation of why that is so here

Then on the Friday just gone, Jenny cooked up one of the big dinners she does so well -- featuring egg-rolled pork!  A great family favorite.  It is a Korean regional dish and even Korean restaurants rarely have it.  There is quite a story to how we got a recipe for it.  And Jenny served a complete Korean feast, with plenty of Kim Chee, Kujeol pan and Japanese ginger.  I have never come across Korean ginger but it is bound to be similar to the Japanese product.  The two cuisines are very similar.

And for dessert we had chocolate cake, which sparked discussions of chocolate cakes past -- Schwarzwalderkirschentorte and Sachertorte in particular.  Jenny very tactfully did not put any candles on the cake

Nanna was very lively, taking part energetically in the discussions. Kate tried to give her a ginger cat but did not succeed.  "Mr Brown", a splendid Burmese cat, was remembered in that discussion. "Mr Brown" was the perfect cat. I am holding him in the picture below -- taken some years back



UPDATE: It was a little remiss of me not to say anything about the various birthday greetings I received.  This is the age of the internet so I received only two cards, a jokey one from Anne and one from Von. The one from Von was particularly appreciated as she included a DVD of some recent doings of Hannah.  Having the littlies growing up far away does mean that I miss much but with modern technology I can still get some substitute for that.

It's not often I acknowledge it but I am basically an old Celtic sentimentalist so that matters to me.  I have plenty of Celtic ancestry (Scottish and Irish) so the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, as they say.

Among my internet greetings, I was particularly pleased to hear from Pat Timbs, whom I had rather lost touch with.  I was pleased to see that he is back in Sydney these days.  Ladies from China do beguile him but he can find that in Sydney too. Almost every day I see little Chinese ladies on the arms of Caucasian men so Pat is not alone.  Joe too knows a bit about that.

One can observe daily that the forever unhappy Leftists are wrong in calling Australians racist:  The number of Asian ladies on the arms of Caucasian men around the place tells you all you need to know about that.  Clearly, neither party is racist.

But perhaps the most remarkable greeting I received was from Moerbisch -- in German, of course.  And being from Austria it was sung!  Moerbisch is of course the last redoubt of Viennese operetta and, as such, is my artistic lodestar. I buy DVDs of their performances whenever a new one comes out.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Hoddox



What are "hoddox"?  I have encountered hoddox only once. It was on my first trip to South Africa in 1979. I was in the Hillbrow area of Johannesburg, then a rather "vibrant" (in a good way.  I don't like some vibrations) area.  It was a safe area to walk around in then, unlike in the "rainbow" South Africa of today.

Anyway, I wanted some food so walked into a small cafe and asked the proprietor what he was selling.  He listed a number of things, one of which was "hoddox".  It sounded interesting so I  ordered it.  It was a hot dog.  The proprietor was Greek -- and a Greek version of a South African accent had foxed me.

I very rarely eat hot dogs because I don't like frankfurts, which are their usual filling.  Although there is something about franks that I don't like, I have never been quite able to pin down what it is.  I think I may have found out, however.  I think the following information from a food chemist might put a lot of people off:

"One thing about hot dogs, they're in a category called emulsified sausages and they're a bit more complex than, say, your typical sausage. In summer sausage, meat and fat are ground up into small chunks, and them mixed with spices. You can still see those chunks and tell the meat apart from the fat though. In an emulsified sausage like hot dogs, the meat and fat are ground into much tinier chunks, until it forms a uniform paste. The paste then mixed in powerful, high speed mixers together with spices, additives, water, and air. If regular sausage is like pesto, emulsified sausage is like vinaigrette. There's a lot of things going on in there that you just can't see without a microscope"

I am very keen on sausages generally so it must just be the texture of franks that I dislike. A jocular name for sausages is "mystery bags".  I think the mystery is most pronounced with franks.

I acquired the information above in pursuit of something I encountered on one of my trips to L.A.  I was living in a cheap motel and had the radio on a fair bit.  I mostly had a station called KFWB on, as it was an all-news station then and I wanted to keep abreast of what was going on in America at that time.

And they did of course have advertisements, very frequent advertisements.  And a much repeated advertisement was for "Ball Park" franks.  Below is what Wikipedia says about them:

"A Livonia, Michigan meat-packing company called Hygrade Food Products won a competition in 1959 to be the exclusive supplier of hot dogs to the Detroit Tigers and Tiger Stadium. Hygrade Food Products launched a contest to its employees in order to come up with the best brand name for their Detroit Tigers stadium hot dogs. Mary Ann Kurk, one of Hygrade Food Products sales people at the time, won the contest with the name "Ball Park Franks". She won a leather living room chair and a cash prize of $25 (equivalent to $203 in 2015). It was from this venue that Ball Park Franks gained popularity and became known in American pop-culture. Sara Lee acquired Hygrades from Hanson Industries in 1989"

And the great slogan advertising Ballpark franks was:

"They plump when you cook em".

That seemed very strange to me.  It sounded like an apology for their franks being small.  It seemed a strange thing to focus your advertising on.  And, perhaps because that seemed odd to me, it has remained in my memory to a most unfortunate degree.  Often, when I see sausages of any kind, that stupid slogan runs through my head.  My mind has been infected by a virus that I most deplore and cannot get rid of.  I guess I must regard that  as just one of the many injuries we suffer as we slide down the razorblade of life.  (Hats off to Tom Lehrer).


Monday, July 4, 2016

The election


I had a good election even if Australia as a whole did not.  The night before I took Anne to a newly opened Guzman y Gomez Mexican restaurant near me at Buranda. I ordered a taco, a fajita, an Enchilada and a Burrito and they were as good as ones I have had in the Los Angeles area.  A bottle of Tyrrells Verdelho helped them to go down.  We drink a lot of that.



Then next morning I cooked pancakes.  I cheated of course. I bought a bottle of mix into which I just had to pour milk and shake.  I poured the result into a lightly greased Teflon pancake frypan and waited only a few minutes for the result to be lifted out.  They were fine.  We had them as an American  breakfast with genuine Canadian Maple syrup and shortcut bacon. I didn't make as many as I could have because I wanted to leave room for a sausage sizzle.  I am very keen on sausages and Australia has a lot of sausage sizzles as fundraisers.



So after breakfast we went and voted at the church hall of St. Philips Anglican at Buranda.  They have a large fine church hall there which they use for Highland dancing.



So, after voting, we went looking for the sausage sizzle and soon found it. Anne and I both had one.  I saw an old guy there whom I deduced would be the Rector, though he was dressed in Mufti.  So as I was leaving, I asked him if he was and he said he was.  I then asked him if he was high or low and he said medium.  A very Anglican reply!

Then that night Jenny very kindly put on a pork roast for a few of us so we could watch the votes coming in together on TV. I contributed another bottle of Tyrrells Verdelho. Jenny and Nanna were present plus Joe and Kate and Anne and I.  Jenny really did us proud.  As well as the roast she cooked spuds, sweet spuds, carrots, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts and apple sauce. A real spread!  And most of all Jenny cooks good CRACKLING.  The cracking is of course the pinnacle treat of a pork roast.  Muslims will never experience it.  Dinner was for 7pm so a bit after 8pm we sat down to watch the broadcast from the tally room.  And everybody now knows the pesky result.

There was quite a bit of discussion as the results were coming in and I think all of us were looking out to see how some candidate or seat would go.  I remarked at one stage that I always vote for Pauline and I don't think I was the only one.  Everybody seemed very comfortable with that choice anyway, though Kate may not have been.  After several years of university brainwashing, she finds Joe's conservative family a bit of a shock at times, I think.  We even discussed global warming briefly at one stage.

Then next night I still had some pancake mix and bacon left over so  I made a big heap of pancakes for my supper that night.  Very easy cooking with a very tasty result.

I still have a bit of bacon left so I am looking forward to making myself a bacon butty tonight.  A bacon butty really needs nothing to go with it but I think I might try one with chutney.