Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The Popularity of the Prado

There were lines in front of Madrid’s Prado Museum yesterday, dear reader. Long lines of people. Extremely long. About as long as those in front of Lenin’s Mausoleum back in the good old days of Soviet glory… No fewer than 18,500 people were absolutely eager to get in.

Were they tourists? A particularly plentiful busload of Japanese art-lovers? An invasion of French Kodak-fodder with an unquenchable thirst for Old Masters? An entire middle-sized German town on an organised municipal outing?

No, they were not. They were, I shudder to say, 18,500 unemployed Spaniards, young, middle-aged and old, applying hopelessly for altogether 11 (say: eleven!) miserable low-level jobs at a very minimal wage of some 13,000 Euros (read: just over 1,000 Euros a month). That is 1,682 applicants for every position. Yes: 1,682 to 1. Do take your time and let that sink in for a moment.

For some unfathomable Beurocrat reason, this absurd event is finally opening the eyes of Our Masters in Brussels and their Elected Lackeys in Europe’s national capitals. Suddenly they see the light. Suddenly they understand that Something Strange Is Going On Out There, namely: massive unemployment, despair and anxiety. And just as suddenly, all of them – the Barrosos and Rompuys and Rehns and Schlaubes and whonots - are shocked, and astonished, and shamed, and are shouting for the loudest (bitter crocodile tears in their eyes) that Something Must Be Done, because Things Can Not Go On Like This… Youth unemployment must be battled… Jobs must be created… Growth must be stimulated. Quickly quickly quickly…

Of course, nothing in Brussels is ever as golden as it glitters. Yes, something must be done. But WHY are Our Masters suddenly so convinced of this lofty cause? Is it because their heart bleeds at the unexpected discovery of the awful plight of their poor countrymen and fellow Europeans? Well, not exactly…

Hear yesterday’s statement of President Fran├žois Hollande, not even the worst one of lot (even if both his performance and his popularity are the most lamentable in recent French history). ‘We must act urgently,’ he said. ‘Unemployment is reaching unsupportable levels in a number of countries. Imagine all the hatred, the anger. We’re talking about a complete breakdown of belief in Europe. What’s really at stake here is that citizens are turning their backs on the European project.’

The European Project. I didn’t know, but THAT is what this is all about. Not starving children in Portuguese schools. Not Greek elderly dying from lack of medicines in the hospitals. Not an entire generation of the young sacrificed on the altar of rating agencies. No: what really matters is their pet project: the European Union. If that is endangered, suddenly the alarm bells ring in these hollow heads, and SOMETHING MUST BE DONE

The poor man. He still doesn’t get it. In reality, mon cher Fran├žois, the citizens are not turning their backs on the European Project today. They did that long ago. And do you want to know why? It is because decades ago, the European Project has turned its back on the citizens of Europe.

A guillotine! My kingdom for a guillotine!

If you have a strong stomach, read how truly dismal and hopeless the European situation is in this here article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Cookbook: Sweet-and-sour eggs the cheating way

Sometimes the hard-pressed miracle cook is in an awful hurry and needs to Impress Through Simplicity and Please Through Ease the fast way. You surely know the kind of situation… Hubby comes home unexpectedly at dinnertime – turns out that his secretary had another engagement with some young hulk – and demands FOOD on the table! Mama, drunk on ample sherry, decided to invite her entire bridge-club over for dinner, and would Daddi-O please oblige and feed the lot of cackling hens? A distant aunt, whom you never expected to see in the flesh again but from whom you still hope to inherit, suddenly rings the doorbell and does not have the good grace to leave before dinner or invite you to Maxim’s…

These are moments of panic, dear reader, and at such moments, one needs a Mittington Miracle Recipe, which gives instant results and allows for no needless critical objections as to What We Use or How We Use It. All that is wanted is an instant edible yummy result, so well camouflaged that the horrid ingredients it contains will never be recognized. My Sweet & Sour Eggs In-the-cheating-way, is a fine example of the kind of dish that will take you no longer than ten minutes to make and will save you from the above awkward fix…

So, go about it in this manner:

Boil 1 egg per person for 5 minutes. Fish them out of the boiling water with a spoon and drop them into very cold water (which makes peeling them so much easier later on). Let the eggs cool off for another 10 minutes, as you make the sauce in this here manner:

Put a saucepan onto a low fire. Drop in: 100 ml of tomato ketchup and 100 ml of fruit juice (orange, or tropical mix, or apricot, or whatever you happen to have in the house). Then add a spoonful of ginger jam, or ginger powder. Stir, mix, and let it get hot. Toss in a dash of powdered cloves, and a little salt. Mix a good spoonful of corn flour (preferably ‘Maizena’) with a little water, and pour it into the sauce. Bring to a boil and let it simmer for 20 seconds. Kill the fire (never let this brew boil too long… it might disintegrate!)

Now peel the eggs. Put them into a narrow, deep container. Pour the sauce in until the eggs are submerged. Sprinkle a little fresh or dry parsley on top, or – if you happen to have any – some fresh coriander leaves.

Serve while still warm, as you explain to your guests that this is an ancient Balinese recipe you only managed to pry lose with immense trouble and great bribes from a Batak witchdoctor.