Saturday, 28 April 2012

Saturday Snapshot: Very Very Very Lost In Translation

Okay, here’s a snapshot I had wanted to post three weeks ago because of its obvious Holy Week connotations. At the time I didn’t find the opportunity, but since it’s pretty funny, I figure I’d better do so late than never. Unfortunately, you readers won’t get the point unless you have the deductive savvy of Sherlock Holmes and a working knowledge of the Dutch language. Since I have both, I’ll help you along.

I took this picture at the entrance gate to a camping in the hills north of here. To tell the truth, ‘camping’ is a big word to describe the place. It was no more than a plot of grass in the backyard of a decrepit old farmstead, run by two octogenarian brothers, one of whom still knew how to talk while the other still knew how to walk. You surely get the idea.

By the looks of it, these two old fellows were dead set on turning their farmyard enterprise into a mammoth money maker. They thought long and hard about the right kind of PR and publicity, and decided that what they needed most was a welcoming sign on the gate inviting potential clients to step into the premises. So the one who could still see, directed the one who could still write to paint ‘Enter!’ onto a piece of cardboard. In Spanish, the word for that is ‘Pasen’ when the plural imperative is put into the polite form. So far so good.

But was that good enough? No, it wasn’t! You see: our ageing entrepreneurs were also most anxious to attract an international clientele. Therefore, they understood, they ought to add the same luring slogan in the most current international languages. Unfortunately neither of them spoke an international language. But no problem, the one who could still think explained to the one who could still hear: we’ll ask one of our foreign campers to translate the text for us!

So out they hobbled into the meadow looking for a foreign tourist. And they found one. To their misfortune, this was a Dutchman who knew next to no Spanish and had never heard of the plural imperative in the polite form. The one brother who could still talk took the signboard with ‘Pasen’ from the one who could still lug, and handed it to this travelling Boer with the request: ‘¿Usted? ¿Traducir? ¿Al inglés y francés?

Our polyglot-from-the-polder looked at the word, shrugged, took out a pencil, and - since ‘Pasen’ is the Dutch word for Holy Week – scribbled underneath the English and French equivalents: ‘Easter’ and ‘Paques’. It never seems to have occurred to him to wonder why an octogenarian campground owner in Galicia might wish to know the word for Semana Santa in various international languages.  

Thus, my dear Watson, a most original entrance sign was born… And if, in a few thousand years, Chinese archaeologists dig up this example of 20th Century Spanish epigraphy… Boy, will they have a hard nut to crack to explain it!

Friday, 27 April 2012

Cookbook: Uncommon Curry Sauce

Ah, enough of Eurogues and the coming Great Depression, dear reader! Time to return to happier themes, and more in particular: to that grandest subject of all that you may find on Metis Meets Mittington: the Saga of Mayonnaise!

The Cookblog most certainly needs it! After all that complicated fumbling with fish eggs and egg-plants and devilled eggs over recent weeks, I am positive that you will welcome a simple straightforward recipe for a yummy little Mayo dip which goes with just about everything (well, okay: strawberry pie excluded perhaps…) and can be whipped up in about three minutes. Talk about last minute solutions to turn your fodder into a feast!

Therefore today we will do 

Curry Sauce! 

Hey, ho, stop, wait, I hear my regular readers protest. Maestro, they exclaim with a touch of exasperation in their voices, art thou not taking ‘Impress Through Simplicity & Please Through Ease’ a wee bit too far? Curry sauce isn’t Simple and Easy: it is Plain, Artless, and Dull! You toss a spoon of curry into a cup of Mayo and you stir. Ecco! Job done. Mission accomplished. End of story.

Ah no, my dear dear simpleton disciples, I answer! You are only partly right. Curry sauce is plain, artless and dull when YOU make it. Not if it is the Uncommon Mittington Curry Delight, based on a hand-made curry mix enriched with choice aromas!

MIX curry, Maestro? Do you mean to tell us that curry… doesn’t grow on trees?

No, my sweet dear ignorant dunces! Curry does not grow in the wild! It does not come from a root that you grind up or a berry which to pound to pieces or the stigma which you steal from a curry crocus. Curry is a combination of spices! Three in particular, which you cannot do without. Namely: Cumin, Coriander and Turmeric.

Cumin, Coriander and Turmeric make Curry

Needless to say (but to be on the safe side, why don’t I say it?) you have to get all of these in ground form. Particularly the turmeric, which – here in Europe at least - comes from a root that is as hard as ebony. While you can still pound cumin seeds and coriander grains to shreds if you apply yourself, you will never produce enough turmeric powder from such a root to make half a thimbleful of curry, unless you have four Indian Ayahs willing to slave away for the Greek minimum wage at the grinding stone throughout the moonlit night! So be smart: get your ingredients ground, from a good spice boutique, and make sure they are reasonably fresh. And remember: spices that are older than 6 month have usually lost three quarters of their taste! Especially if you store them in the light and / or within reach of humidity.

So here we go with

Step 1: mixing your curry. The correct proportions for your first ever mix would be: 1 unit of cumin, ½ unit of coriander and ¾ unit of turmeric (the best unit is a teaspoon). Cumin really is the body of the mix, coriander is essential but has a slightly soapy taste which you must be careful not to overdo, and turmeric is mainly there for the colour, although it does add a particular deep flavour to the mix as well. (Now as soon as you know what you are doing, you are free to adapt these proportions to your personal preference. In curry, as in art, there are no fixed canons or set standards. So experiment, over time.)

Step 2: enhancing your curry. This is the creative and most gratifying side of curry making. All sorts of spices present themselves to add just that little something special to your personal curry. Me myself, I always toss in a quarter spoonful of ground ginger. I also toss in salt and pepper: if I want it simply hot, a quarter spoonful of black pepper. If I desire the real blazing Indian touch, a sniff of cayenne pepper. Next to that, I always play around with cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and even cardamom. Each of which have to be ground, naturally, and must be applied with restraint. Lastly, I like to add a little very fine sugar to the mix, to underscore the bouquet of perfumes.

Step 3: curry sauce. You surely will be astonished to hear this, reader, but I would not advise you to make Curry Sauce with home-made Mayo. There are two good reasons for this. First of all: hand-mixed curry has so strong a taste that it completely overwhelms any true Mayonnaise flavour. Secondly, the spices tend to bring out a certain oiliness of the sauce, which for chemical reasons is more noticeable with hand-made Mayo than with bottled sauces. So I suggest you use a good quality bottled Mayo for this particular recipe.

Now for mixing. Fill a cup about halfway full with Mayo. Toss in a spoonful or two of your curry. Mix. You will notice that the spices stiffen the sauce considerably. To compensate for this, first of all add a small splash of orange juice, and mix again. The fruity taste of the juice is an essential addition to our sauce. If it is still too thick to your taste, add either water or milk in small quantities, and mix well each time, until you like the fluidity of your sauce. Now taste, and if it is not strong enough, add a little extra curry. Mix and serve!

[Nota Bene: many people prefer to use yoghurt for their dips. That is fine in other sauces, but Curry Sauce does not stand acidity very well. Therefore I would advice against it, as I also warn you not to add lemon juice to this recipe. It is guaranteed to spoil the desired effect.]

Recommended Reading on the coming Great Depression

Since another Great Depression is nearly upon us, dear reader, it does at least make sense to understand where it comes from and what is its deeper nature. I found these articles particularly enlightening and gladly recommend them to those of you who have the courage and the stomach to learn.

In this article you will find the views of Professor Paul Krugman’s (Nobel Prize for Economy) on the Austerity approach which is presently fashionable among political leaders. His take on the consequences of heavy cuts in education, both in the USA and in Europe, may be seen in this short article.

A simple explanation why Spain came to be in such a mess may be found in this article form the BBC site. 

Then, Mats Persson explains in this article what the European Union should do instead of asking for more money from its suffering member states.

And finally: on how to go about the needed austerity with a patient scalpel, instead of a rusty axe, see this editorial by Ms Christina Romer (best quote: ‘Markets don’t want counterproductive measures’!)

All of which is pretty much born out by this article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard.

So YES! It CAN be done, if you’re not obsessed with punishing PIGS or licking up to the Self-serving Despots in Brussels!

Thursday, 26 April 2012


Jacques Necker

It is truly incredible! Some people simply have no shame! Some people are born without a conscience!

The very same scoundrels who are demanding that all over the continent schools be closed, that pensions be slashed, that the sick pay their own treatment, that immigrants be excluded from all health care, that unemployed house owners be kicked out into the street with their children and grandparents, that average workers pay for the bail-outs of the banks from their reduced salaries, that every sovereign government commits economic suicide by budget slash-and-burn…

The Barrosos, the Van Rompuys, the Almunias, the Ashtons, the Rehns and the Kroes, and all that wretched nauseating crowd who brought misery upon the continent through their pipe-dream of a single currency and unchecked, unbalanced and un-elected Beurocrat hegemony….

They now demand an increase 
of 7 % for the 2013 EU Budget !!!!  

Barefaced. Brazen. Without a trace of shame, guilt or remorse…

Even for one as old as I, this spectacle is without comparison in his lifetime!

You are asking for popular uprisings, you incomparable mindless idiots!

Stop starving our poor! 
Stop wrecking our democracies! 
Stop repeating history!!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Golden Quotebook: Casanova on Codpieces


Throughout history, many have been the objections of the powerful to the moral habits of their subjects. And many the battles shamefully lost against sex, drugs, rock & roll and eating-with-your-hands. Why? Well, because you never get there with prohibitions and punishment! You gotta be a whole lot more subtle. This is how such things are done:


The chief subject of dispute at that time [in Spain 1767 - ABM] was the fashion of wearing breeches. Those who wore 'braguettes' [codpieces - ABM] were imprisoned, and all tailors making breeches with 'braguettes' were severely punished. Nevertheless, people persisted in wearing them, and the priests and monks preached in vain against the indecency of such a habit. A revolution seemed imminent, but the matter was happily settled without effusion of blood. An edict was published and affixed to the doors of all the churches, in which it was declared that breeches with ‘braguettes’ were only to be worn by the public hangmen. Then the fashion passed away; for no one cared to pass for the public executioner.

[Casanova, Memoires, volume 6: Spain]

Whoever figured that one out, ought to get a statue!

PS Congratulations to the Portuguese for the anniversary of their Carnation Revolution!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Ménage à Trois

Okay: the results are in, and they are predictably surprising! Here is – roughly - what each of the candidates in the first round of the French Presidential elections scored yesterday:

Hollande          28 %
Sarkozy           27 %
Le Pen (fille)   18 %
Mélenchon      11 %
Bayrou            9 %

In short: François Hollande won the first round. Consequently everybody still counts on an embarrassing defeat for Mr Sarkozy in the second and last round on May 6. Yet I am not convinced. Let us face some dry but telling facts. Yes, Mr Hollande won the first bout, but he did not do at all so well as the polls predicted. He didn’t reap the promised 32 or 33 % of the vote, but only 28. Meanwhile, Mr Sarkozy did exactly as the polls foretold: a lean, but respectable, 27 %. The actual difference between the two could not be smaller. For all practical purposes it’s a tie. And that means that Mr Sarkozy has a chance of bouncing back.

So the polls got it a little wrong. Small surprise! It happens three times out of ten. But there is more! The polls got it absolutely, absurdly, inexplicably and unforgivably wrong when it came to the showing of Ms Le Pen, whose results comes close to 20 %, i.e. 7 million voters. Why did the polls not foresee this? Well, for the simple reason of a deliberate blind eye.

Ms Le Pen’s electorate consists of that old-time, unfashionable, un-hip, supposedly obsolete segment of society that all experts, commentators and journalists are happy to overlook, because in their eyes Modern Society would be better off if it did not exist: the unsophisticated, low-educated, average-wage blue collar white male, who dislikes immigration (particularly of the Islamic variety), the European Union and artistic left-leaning bourgeois elites (a.k.a. the Radical Chic, of which there are many in France!)

I don’t know if you noticed, dear reader, but over the last 20 or 30 years the European movements that lean on this segment have been declared dead and out-dated half a dozen times already, yet with every true election they grow and score better! This you rarely see reflected in the predictions. Why not? Because there is a strong social stigma on such parties as the PVV in Holland or the Front National in France. Folks who vote for these rogue parties, the media never tire of telling their audience, are stupid and racist and inspired only by irrational fear. Brutes and yokels, in short. Despicable boors. Small wonder, then, that when interviewed by the polling bureaus, a considerable number of them are loath to admit to their true preferences. But once in the secrecy of the voting booth, they feel no such scruples to vote for their preferred rogue party candidate. Ecco the little surprise that each recent election has brought.

So where will these voters go in the second round on May 6th? With the same jolly wishful thinking, electoral experts now predict that these churls will stay home or cast a blank vote. If so, Mr Sarkozy is doomed. Unfortunately, these experts are the exact same ones who were unable to predict the success of Ms Le Pen, which shows you how little they understand of that segment of the electorate and how flawed their data really are. This means there may well be another surprise in the offing.

In the wake of the Mereh murders, Mr Sarkozy made a highly publicized show of anti-terrorist activity. This was a well-calculated electoral move, which predictably did little to attract Front National voters in the first round, but may pay off handsomely in the second when Ms Le Pen does not run. Are they disgusted enough with the sitting president in the Élysée to wish him to go to Inferno? Or might they consider him the lesser of two evils? You tell me. But if I were of that mind-set, dear reader, I wonder how happy I would be with the prospect of having an immigrant-friendly, EU-adoring, alternative-lifestyle stimulating New Left Socialist president running my life for the next five years...  

Oh, and another funny one: in the whole 54-year history of the 5th republic, there have been seven presidents. Only one of them – Mr Mitterrand – was a socialist.

We are living in interesting times.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Holland and Hollande

Well, finally! Give Praise to whatever higher power you worship, dear reader! After a boring dry white season and the long barren winter of our discontentment, things are finally getting interesting!

In The Netherlands, the right-wing Europhilic government came down yesterday when one of the coalition partners, the much reviled and censured PVV Freedom Party, decided to call it a day and rejected the crippling Brussels Austerity Diktat. New elections are expected in October (they’re not always the fastest up there, are they? But then them Dutchmen have to wade through all that mud which makes up most of their country, so I guess we have to be understanding of their sluggishness). Meanwhile it is amusing to see that the country which most insisted on the strict observance of the arbitrary 3 % budget deficit ceiling, is unable to live by its own rules (for others) and, in deeds if not in words, requests budgetary flexibility (for itself). Where have we seen this one before? Oh yeah, right: back in 2003, when the northern countries themselves mowed down the Euro Stability Pact when it was convenient to them! History repeats itself once again! Boy, are they in an ugly fix!

Of course, what Europe (I mean the continent and its inhabitants) needs most right now, and is loudly clamouring for, is one single leader of vision and courage who dares to say No to Europe (here I mean the Brussels Beurocratic Oligarchy who pretend they represent something more than themselves and their grandmothers-cum-personal-secretaries). So far, only Mr Camaron did so once (and we haven’t heard from him since) and – somewhat unexpectedly - Mr Rajoy of Spain, when he came out with the brazen declaration that he’d cut the Spanish 2012 budget deficit not to 3 % but to 5.8. Never mind that he later had to swallow a compromise 5.3 %. I have the impression that this was a calculated concession. So praise where it belongs: so far, Don Mariano’s minor success is the only victory of a sovereign state over ‘Haiku’ Herman’s Herrenvolk.

It so happens, that Mr François Hollande, Socialist candidate in today’s presidential elections in France, has promised with so many words to stand up to Brussels if he gains the Elysée Palace. We shall see how that turns out. Don’t ask me to make predictions. Today, April 22, is only the first round of the presidential elections, and much as Mr Hollande is absolutely bound to win according to all electoral experts and other Cassandras, my French compatriots are famously fickle and unpredictable in their voting habits. So anything may happen, and we will not know until May 6th, when the second round of the elections will be held.

In any case, that merry month of May – called, as we all know, after mankind’s greatest culinary discovery: the Golden Sauce – promises to be a most decisive and fascinating period, a month in which Sage History will stamp its true wishes upon our future. The things that lie ahead of us in the coming five weeks! On the 6th we will not only have the presidential elections in France, but also the general elections in Greece! On the 23rd, the presidential elections in Egypt will be unleashed, and boy, will that be a triumph of freedom! On the 30th Ireland will have its referendum on the EU Austerity Treaty, which may well blow up the whole of the Alcatraz prison into which Ali Babarroso and his fourty thousand goalers hope to immure the European nations.

And last, but certainly not least significant, on May 26, in Baku, Azerbaijan, we will be treated to the Eurovision Song Contest, in which, for the first time in its inane history, a band of Deserving Dames will compete with the spoiled, young, vain, interchangeable and exhibitionist, for an insignificant trophy and the prize money with which they plan to build a church in their village! A CHURCH! Have you ever heard of such a thing?!

So no matter your political preferences, no matter where you live, never mind your class or your income, your skin colour or your sexual inclinations: do old Al a favour. Tune in to that bombastic Eurovision Bash on the 26th of May, and simply to honour age and celebrate this most unheard-of occasion, which will not come around again in your lifetime

Vote the Buranova Babushkas!!

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Friday, 20 April 2012

Cookbook: Eggplant Chopped Liver Style

For reasons which only those extremely well-versed in recent history will understand, today – Fry-day April 20th – is a particularly apt date to offer you a Jewish recipe on Alfred B. Mittington’s Cookblog, dear reader.

But which one should it be? The choice is immense! A nation that’s been around for – give or take a few centuries – 3,500 years, and lived in 2,009 of the 2,010 countries that the world has ever seen, naturally has built up quite an impressive culinary heritage. Should I go for a Biblical approach, and do the Manna Sandwich? Yeah, fine, but that’s a desert recipe, right? So that would be somewhat disappointing for those of my readers who live in humid areas, where the sand which the recipe requires is not so easily gathered. Should I do, perhaps, one of the delicious Tongue dishes that my Jewish Cookbook provides? Boiled Tongue, Smoked Tongue, Filled Tongue or Smothered Tongue? Hmmm… Each one of them makes my mouth water; but why is it I have the impression that the present generation will do just about anything with their tongues – stick them out at their elders, jam them into their cheeks, speak or do unspeakable things with them - except eat them? Perhaps Chicken Soup then, that famous panacea of every Jewish mama? Nah… too common. What about Gefillte Fish? No… Too darn laborious.

The motto of the Mittington Cookblog is Please Through Ease, remember? So a simple yet gratifying dish it ought to be, something made in a jiffy yet eaten with relish… And one which preferably contains some Mayonnaise…

Hey, but wait! I got it! Of course! How could I forget the occasion of one of my most shameful defeats at the hands of my good friend Nick Shay Deutsch, hobo player in several of the world’s better philharmonics? The good fellow once assured me he could make simple eggplants taste like delicious chopped liver without the involvement of meat. Loudly I laughed and dared him to do so. And lost a shockingly expensive bottle of Jean-Louis Chave in the wager…

So here goes with a neat Jewish recipe for those with taste and sophistication!

Eggplant ‘Chopped Liver Style’

Boil 4 eggs for 6 minutes. Once done, let them cool in a container full of cold water. Now take two or three small eggplants. Peel them and cut them in small cubes. Fry them slowly in olive oil until they are nice and mushy. Remove from the pan to a plate and let cool on the side, as you fry three medium sized, finely chopped onions. Peel the eggs and cut to small pieces. Put eggplant, onions and eggs into a bowl. Add salt and pepper and 2 good spoonfuls of quality Mayonnaise. Mix well. Eat cold, with bread, as a side dish or a dip.

Two final remarks: first of all, remember that looks and loveliness do not always go together. Despite its excellent taste, this dish has a rather unappetising, grey hue (which is why I haven’t included a picture of the final result here…) You can improve matters somewhat by sprinkling the top with chopped parsley and egg yolk, but if the honest truth be told, the only real solution is to eat in the darkness by the light of a single candle. Some things simply cannot be helped.

Secondly: depending on the proportions and the quality of the eggplant, the dish sometimes comes out a little too wet and watery. If this happens, try pounding up some old dry bread and mixing it in until the mix acquired the desired consistency.

Postscript at 12.29 h

OK. I got some mildly negative feed back from certain loud-mouthed and uppity young folk here in the village as to that ‘particularly apt date’ for a Jewish recipe. Or to quote in direct speech: ‘What the f… are you jabbering about this time, dedushka?’ Ah, the ignorance of the iPod Generation…! But I guess there are more of you out there who haven’t a clue. So let me give you a subtle hint.

Go to your fridge and look for a sausage, preferably an old Austrian Käsekrainer Bratwurst way beyond its shelf date and containing ample rotten meat. Paint onto it the famous fuckface as shown below. Now light a good red-hot barbecue fire. Put the sausage on top of the smouldering embers. Let it burn there until it’s perfectly incinerated (don’t even think of eating it!) as you sing this mighty jolly birthday song from a Dante libretto:

Happy Fry Day To You
Happy Fry Day To You
Happy Fry Day Dear Führer
Happy Fry Day To You!