Monday, 24 June 2013

Cookbook: Kung Fu Panda Soup

I lied to you last week, dear reader; I told you a little white lie so as to sprinkle some spice onto this my cookblog. I wrote – in this here post on chopsticks and tormented Yulin dogs - that my Kung Fu Panda Noodle Soup was one of the triumphs of the Chinese kitchen. But of course Kung Fu Panda Noodle Soup is not genuine Chinese cuisine. It is Hollywood Gastronomy, i.e. the stuff that every poor sod of a parent has to concoct from time to time when his spoiled little brat starts to whine that he wants to eat the same stuff as his favourite cartoon hero. Think them Crabburgers of Spongebobsquarepants, Roast Boar from every last page of Asterix, Grilled Venison from Bambi, and so on…

In my case, the spoiled little brat was my godchild Hannibal (you remember Hannibal, don’t you, reader…? Him of the Hair Mayonaise!!?) Hannibal, then, a few years ago, a mere toddler still (who never so much as dreamed of wasting good Mayo on his coiffure…!) ran into my kitchen blaring he wanted the same soup that that martial Ailuropoda Melanoleuca from the Disney movie served in his father’s soup kitchen. ‘If you’re really such a star cook as you always pretend to be,’ the little blackmailer challenged Alfred B. Mittington, ‘I bet you surely know of the recipe and how to make it’ (never mind his grammar, dear reader: he goes to school in Spain…)

Young Hannibal showing off his best table manners...

Now of course I had not the slightest idea, because as far as I know there IS no recipe for the movie soup. But I was not going to tell the terrible toddler any such thing, for what Godfather in his right mind wants to risk his reputation of Omniscience and Omnipotence? So instead, I created this fine soupy dish out of nothing but my genius; a task made so much easier since in a splendidscene of the movie, Kung Fu Panda’s Daddy – who happens to be a Peking Duck as yet unroasted – announces he has a great secret to reveal to his son – a full grown Panda Bear -  and when we all expect him to confess that the Panda has been adopted, he merely confesses that There Is No Secret Ingredient In My Famous Noodle Soup….! So I understood that Anything Goes, and I set to work, and I demiurged the below heavenly manna.

You will be happy to hear of Alfred B. Mittington’s Kung Fu Panda Noodle Soup, dear reader; especially if you have bratty kids (and who doesn’t these days?) For this dish is easy to make, very yummie, and everybody can have a go at improving and improvisation. Just follow my basic recipe, and then change it to your heart’s delight according to your very own taste.

Alfred B. Mittington’s Kung Fu Panda Noodle Soup

Boil some 20 grams per person of your favourite noodles. Drain and set aside. Also boil 1 egg for every 2 people. Cool the eggs, peel them, and set aside as well (outside the fridge).

Before, next or meanwhile: bring to a boil 250 ml of clean water per person. Toss in 1 beef cube, a quarter onion, a laurel leaf, and a small clove of garlic. Lower the flame and let it simmer for 10 minutes. After that time, pour in a sturdy dash of soy sauce and add small spoonfuls of various oriental spices: cumin, ginger, curry, ground coriander, ground lemon grass, laos, and if you like (but very cautiously!): nutmeg, cinnamon, ground cloves etc etc. (Needless to say: you will have to figure out your favourite combination of spices by trial and error.) Let this concoction simmer for another 10 minutes (as you recite some choice lines from MacBeth…), then remove the pan from the stove and take the onion, bay leaf and garlic out of the broth.

Next: get one nice bowl per guest. Add noodles to each bowl. Put half a hard-boiled egg on top.

Then quick-fry in olive oil whatever finely chopped vegetables strike your fancy: onions, leaks, red pepper, green pepper, Chinese cabbage, carrots, and so on and so forth. Put a small quantity of each into each bowl. Then, if you happen to have them at hand: add some chives, or fresh coriander leaves, or fresh parsley.

Now return the broth to the stove, bring to a boil, and fill up each bowl with that spicy, crystal lymph. Serve while still steaming, and eat this fine soup, not with that inane invention that is the Chinese Chopstick, but with that splendid modern Western innovation of genius: the stainless steel fork! The Best of Both Worlds! Where Orient Meets Occident Without Accidents!

Some nice variants include: frying some bacon beforehand and crumbling that over the soup at the last moment; adding shrimp, either peeled or unpeeled; or pieces of roast chicken; or little meat balls with tandoori spices. But as said: do invent your own Mittington Kung Fu Panda Noodle Soup and toss in whatever strikes your fancy! As we all know: Alfred B. Mittington is a most Tolerant Chef!

Panicky Post Scriptum

Oh dear, doing a quick scan, I discovered that I have not been the only tormented (God)father who was blackmailed into inventing Kung Fu Panda Soup! It turns out there are dozens of other homonym recipes out there on the evil web! (How DARE these shameless scoundrels steal Alfred B. Mittington’s ideas before he has even published them?!)

Click here to see another Kung Fu Panda Soup recipe… And here for Kung Fu Panda Soup Revisited… And  then here for The Return of Kung Fu Panda Soup… And again here for KFPS the Ultimate Encounter… And here for oh f… And here… Oh dear…

(Needless to say: not one of these stands up to the Alfred B. Mittington variety!)

(Or does anybody dare to disagree and risk the Mittington Anger...??)

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Cookbook: Chopsticks and Yulin Dogs.

In a day or two, dear reader, I will post my recipe for Kung Fu Panda Noodle Soup, one of the triumphs of the Chinese kitchen. I was going to do so today, but it turned out I needed just a little more space for the necessary vehement denunciations of the introduction, so I decided to chop the text in two.

Now then, before anything, let me start out by saying that I highly appreciate the Chinese kitchen. Yes, I most certainly do! It is without a doubt the richest, nicest, most varied, most creative and most astonishing of mankind’s culinary accomplishments. There are only two things wrong with it.

The first of these is the cooking of dogs in the despicable city of Yulin (may the Gods wipe the evil place off the face of the earth!!), where they not only eat Man’s most faithful friend (something I must pass over in silence, since I guess one would be hard put to argue why cows Yes and dogs No), but do so in such an abhorrent, nauseating, barbaric manner that… that… that I – Alfred B. Mittington, never at a loss for words - am simply unable to describe it! Let me just say that the bullfight is child’s play in comparison, and that the worst phantasmagoria about the Spanish Inquisition does not even come close! Anyone who wants to know details, and has a very strong stomach, is welcome to look for descriptions on the internet, which right now is overflowing with footage, since the criminal 10-day Dog Eating Festival of Yulin (cursed be its name for all eternity, and may the Gods strike the hellish locality with hail-fire and ineradicable pubic lice!) is bound to begin tomorrow Friday.

The other problem with the Chinese kitchen is chopsticks.

Chopsticks, dear reader, are an absurdity. They are an earnest error of human creativity. Now, of course: many of mankind’s most useful inventions were ultimately the result of blundering. Gunpowder, for instance, was discovered by accident. So was LSD, on the backburner of a miopic Swiss pharmacist cooking cheese fondu. And even the surgical mask – so great a blessing – was the unintentional result of somebody manufacturing an immense batch of faulty bras, and selling them off to a nearby hospital with a likely story… (1) But from these glorious examples does not follow, dear reader, that whenever you make an idiotic mistake you actually have invented something brilliant and beneficial! I say more: in the case of chopsticks, the true mistake was not in making the damned things, but in mistaking them for functional silverware!

The chopstick, to the best of my archaeological and philological investigations, was developed by a fellow from the bamboo-growing region of Kuàizi, who set out to make an extra sturdy kind of toothpicks. Having only full-grown bamboo to work with, his innovation turned out to be a little thicker and longer than usual, and the story goes that he poked out three molars and one eye (his wife’s…), before inspiration struck him and he turned his invention around, putting morsels of food into his mouth rather than removing scraps of alimentary debris from his dentures. Some smart, smooth-talking marketing did the rest (he advertised the bloody things with the story that they enhanced male potency, just like burnt tiger bones and pulverised rhinoceros horn...) And thus, in 322 A.D., an awful oriental inanity was born… And billions of poor innocent Chinese (not counting those in Yulin, who are ANTHING BUT innocent) have been condemned to juggle, toss, balance and fiddle around with their food ever since…

But no matter how long these silly things have been used by how very many Chinese to gobble up how numerous and countless tasty meals, here is the honest truth: chopsticks may be usefully employed as knitting needles, or to play the drums with, or to set up a game of Mikado if you  have a lot of them lying around… But otherwise there is nothing a pair of chopsticks can do that an ordinary western fork doesn’t do better!

A fork has a bigger lifting surface; it allows you to spear the food if you so desire; it doesn’t rot in the long run; you don’t need to lift your plate to your chin; it doesn’t break or splinter when you chew; a fork allows you to check your teeth for tiny pieces of parsley; you will never mistake a fork for a Pretzel Stick in the half-dark of a cosy restaurant… Most of all, however, forks are better because you only need one of them. Or if I may quote the famous culinary Zen Master Chúfáng Gōngzhǔ: ‘What is the leverage of one lifting chopstick?’ QED I dare say!

Oh, and talking about bras and mouths and things: to what most weird, undesirable mental and moral states the use of the chopstick will ultimately lead young women is shownby this here video concerning edible underwear, the chopstick way… Need I go on? Must I say more? Nay, I’m sure you get the message, dear reader: abstain from the madness that is the chopstick!

(1) If I understand it well: the manufacturer, looking for a way to get rid of the defective stock, struck on the idea that surgeons, hard-pressed by insurance claims, might wish to hide their identity from their patients so they couldn’t be sued. The rest is medical history.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Saturday Snapshot on a Weekday: Purgatory nº 4

Well, here is the last Infernal Picture for a while. But it is not the least, as they say. 

This is a slab of red stone (is it granite?) hung up on a blind wall in a chapel of the tiny, but very charming Cantabrian village of Barcenas (not too far from the village of Ruente, where I found Purgatory nº 3 below!) It has been chisseled into the shape of the Virgin Mary above, a saint in the middle (possible good old Saint Francis again) and the souls in a sea of flames below (quite literally: if you didn't know better you'd think they were swimming in the ocean!)

Just to assure that you can see it all, I'll post one from a different angle and with different lighting as well.

Soon we will go back to the cookblog!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Saturday Snapshot on Sunday: Purgatory nº 3

Ah yes, let me wrap up this little series. Here is my penultimate one.

This comes from a little roadside chapel in the village of Ruente, in Spanish Cantabria (I believe), which shows us St Francis pulling the souls out of Purgatory by way of Pièce de Resistance, but also a whole lot of other icons, in crucifix shape, including the Virgin Mary, the Turin Shroud, St John at the foot of the Cross, and several scenes from the Via Crucis.

I mean: how baroque can you get it? But it's mighty cute!

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Saturday Snapshot: Purgatory nº 2

Last week we had the Virgin Mary, Saint Dominic and Saint Francis who 'pulled' the souls of sinners out of the cleansing flames of Purgatory by means of various pieces of ritual clothing; today we see our Crucified Savior perform the same good office, in a road side chapel somewhere in the Asturias. 

Please note the faces of the blessed sticking out of the clouds on both sides of the cross. 

The style of this painting is of course so very primitive that it makes Grandma Moses look like Michelangelo himself... But ain't that part of the charm?? Gimme that Ol' Time Religion any day!

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Saturday Snapshot: Purgatory nº 1

The Vatican may have abolished Purgatory (after due consultation with the Powers Above, I suppose...), but out here in Spain, that kettle full of flames where sinner's souls are cleansed before they may behold the splendors of the Lord still enjoys widespread popularity... Must have something to do with the Tradition of the Inquisition...

This one comes from a small roadside chapel in the coastal town of Muros, Galicia...

Monday, 3 June 2013

Be fast to grab your very last chance!

As we all know, dear readers, there is nothing puritans, moralists, prudes and bigots like better than to tamper with the national language, to prescribe and proscribe, to prohibit and command what words may be used, which of the many possible arbitrary spellings is the only correct one, and how long our sentences may be. It compares a little bit with the charming doings of the Spanish Inquisition in the matter of religious dogma, with this difference that most people balk at the burning of books, while a goodly little Auto-da-Fé was always highly popular with the pepperbelly plebs of yesteryear (these days the poor things have to make do with bull fights).

Am I suggesting that such crude fooling around with what ought to be left alone is a typical Latin transgression, one of the habitual sins that turn perfectly viable lands and cultures into the enslaved food stamp countries of today? No, dear reader, not at all! On the contrary! The ‘tampering disease’ is equally at home in Germanic lands, on Northern shores, in the linguistic areas where they write nouns with needless capital letters, toss dots onto and slashes through and funny little circles (º) on top of innocent vowels, and generally make grating gurgling sounds as they recite the best poetry their national pride has brought forth.

Which brings me (AT LAST I hear you sigh…) to the burning topic of today. So prick up your ears, listen well and pay attention. If you are versed in High German and were thinking of using any time soon the equally elegant as useful word


then you really gotta be fast! Grab your chance today, and write it, as often as you like or need, as soon as possible. You absolutely have to hurry, because the provincial parliament of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has just yesterday decided to abolish this marvellous term. Why the provincial parliament of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern possesses the authority to decide so, I do not know and cannot imagine. But I do know why they have decided to whitewash it out of the German Dictionary: because – amazingly – it is not used often enough.

I must say I do not find this argument quite convincing. After all: the Great Pyramid of Giza is also rarely used for its true purpose. What am I saying? As far as we know it was only used ONCE (!!!) in the last 4,600 years… Yet is that a reason to demolish the thing and sell the debris down the river? QED, I dare say!

But I guess it cannot be helped. Therefore, dear reader, be smart and be fast about it. For very soon, you will not be allowed no more to use this veritable pearl among the lexicographer’s art, and you will have to make do with the poor, pithy, short and succinct next-best-thing, to wit:


Of a mere 38 characters.

The world will be a poorer, poorer place…

PS For some more thoughts upon the subject, and amusing stories concerning the words Défaitisme, Camping, and neologisms in general, see my older post of May 4th last year by clicking here.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Saturday Snapshot: Bible Quote by Graffiti Artist

This one comes from a window in a run-down squad in Oporto, seven years ago. Somebody had read his Gospel of John, but did not remember the exact wording...