Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Snapshot on Tuesday: Torvizon Fountain

This snapshot always reminds me of those Grimm Brother legends and fairy tales which tell of a hero who has to chose between three doors or three chests: one which holds a treasure, another which is empty and a third which contains a pest or a bloodthirsty monster. A concept which has, incidentally, been applied somewhat imperfectly in American quiz shows. To have a really exciting game, after all, they ought to offer the candidate one door hiding a luxury car, one a single penny, and one hiding an angry Taliban terrorist with an AK-47. But I’m deviating…

This fountain is found in the town of Torvizon, Alpujara mountains, southern Spain. At the top lion head it says ‘potable’, i.e. drinkable. At the left one, it also says ‘potable’. And above the right one it say ‘undrinkable’.

One must really possess a tremendous trust in one’s fellow man to take a sip from any one of these. For how do we know that the fellow who put up the signs was not drunk, and knew his business? As one who once suffered 24 hours of Montezuma’s deadly revenge in a Granada boarding house due to an innocent drink from an Alhambra fountain, I assure you I’d rather die of thirst than run the risk…

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Cookbook: Heavenly Homeburgers

There are certain phenomena which - immediately on appearance – cause a feeling of utter and profound revulsion in the breast of any gourmet cook, dear reader. One of those things is, for instance, the sight of a jar of pre-fab Yoghonaise, that horrid bottled brew for which innocent Mayonnaise gets smothered in an mudslide of acid dairy product, before being passed off as a health product to unsuspecting customers who know no better since they’ve been watching Hollywood sitcoms all their lives…

Another such sight which will make an honest cook puke, is the culinary metamorphosis of a pre-packed supermarket hamburger, freshly ripped from its shell of protective plastic that stops the rot for three months without refrigeration. Once dropped into a smudgy frying pan full of sizzling motor oil, such a slab of shredded animal first exudes half a pint of milky water, and then begins to ooze fat, and more fat, and more fat still, until the ‘meat’ turns to an honest pink hue which will never ever change to crispy brown but will only burn black at the outer edges.

What parent, what spouse, what cook worth his salt or caring householder with a conscience would ever serve such matter to his loved ones, dear reader? And again: WHY would he or she ever even contemplate such a line of action? For – if one really must serve hamburgers (and those of you who have children know there is no escaping this Existential Obligation…) – nothing is easier than to create your very own burger, with your very own hands, using your own carefully selected ingredients, to produce steaks of a good taste and a pleasant appearance. Not so much hamburgers, therefore, but… Homeburgers!

Let old Alfred help you by pointing out the two or three easy steps towards a dish which is tastier, healthier, cheaper and ultimately more satisfying.

Step 1: meat ball on plastic foil

Go to a reliable butcher, and ask the attendant to make, in front of you from choice cuts, some 75-100 grams of quality minced meat per diner. Chop ¼ of a medium sized onion per person into very small pieces. Put the minced meat and the onion into a bowl. Add one egg for every three people. Add a modest spoonful of nutmeg and salt to taste (err on the generous side, for minced meat somehow tends to obliterate salt).

NB 1: Other spices (pepper, cumin, curry, garam masala) may be added to the mix if you so desire, but personally I find they are unnecessary for a nice Homeburger (whose taste, after all, ought to stay close to the natural flavour of meat).

NB 2: It is a customary procedure to add bread crumbs to the minced meat if one wants to increase the mass and make the meatballs a little more ‘fluffy’. However, I discovered that it is far more efficient and tasty to use Danish ‘knäckebrot’ for that purpose. Just break it into pieces, and smash it to smithereens in a mortar.

Step 2: fold the plastic foil over the meat ball

Now take out common plastic foil and cut off a square sheet. Roll a firm meatball between your (wet!) hands. Put this a little to the side of the centre of the plastic, and fold the sheet over it. Press on top of it with the palm of your hand, flattening the meatball into the round hamburger shape of some 2 cm thickness. (Look: even a little brat like Hannibal, educated in the Portuguese schooling system, manages to pulls it off!) Next adjust the edges of your Homeburger by pressing them towards the centre and kneading a little.  

Step 3: flatten the ball into a burger

Now: if wish to freeze your Homeburgers for later use, fold in the three edges of the plastic foil that stick out; then stack up the Homeburgers and put them together in a plastic bag before depositing them in the freezer. That way they keep their shape perfectly, and they won’t stick together. So you can always take out one, or two, or more from the stack, without having to de-freeze the lot.

4a: wrapped and ready for freezing

If, one the other hand, you are going to fry the Homeburgers immediately, carefully peel back the sheet of plastic, transfer the burger to a plate (preferably oiled so that it will not stick), and re-use the same sheet of plastic foil for the next procedure. No reason to burden this poor tormented world with more plastic than strictly practical, right?

4b: fry.

Once you have all the Homeburgers you need, fry them in a minimum of oil until no more RED juices escape from the holes pricked with a fork (if no juices escape anymore at all, you’ve overcooked them!)

Put the meat on hamburger buns (prefab or of your own making) and decorate with garnish and sauces to your own heart’s delight.

5: SERVE ! 

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Immortal Immanuel

To my shocking horror, dear reader, I was confronted, shortly after the publication of last week’s blogpost ‘Sex upside down under’ (see below), with a pair of sullen, insolent youngsters from the near neighbourhood (I will not mention names but those of you who are curious can check their identity here…) who – in between yawns, rattling on iPhone keyboards and checking their insidious Halloween make-up – enquired in an utterly bored tone of voice: ‘Say, Alfred… Whose this Cant fallow you mentioned knocking down your attick door for the polies??’ (The grammar and orthography are THEIRS, dear reader! And so is their summary of the second paragraph of my splendid blogpost!)

‘Oh for crying out loud!’ I cried out loud. ‘Don’t they teach you ANYTHING no more in in those modern schools except how to mentally masturbate your mediocrity by mobile phone…???!!!

‘We cant all be geniouses like U, Ddushka,’ spoke the female half of the anonymous pair. ‘So Y don’t U just Xplain & get IT over with?’ After which she yawned once more and nearly dropped off to sleep over her digital homework.

It was then that I grasped, dear reader, that Education Of The Masses has come a long long way… A long long down-ward way towards the bottom of the murky abyss… And that any author of taste, sophistication and eruditeness better explain a thing or two if ever he wishes to be understood by the average blogvisitor…

So today I will quote  - for your instruction and amusement – the pertinent paragraphs on Herr Immanuel Kant from my famous ‘Flashguide to World Literature’ (the whole of which may be found in part 1 of volume xiii of The Collected Works of Alfred B. Mittington, pp. 103-167).  

 Immanuel Kant

Immanuel Kant was a complete oddball, and – as the phrase goes – a prolific writer. And that is putting it mildly. In fact, Immanuel Kant was such a prolific writer that nobody, except for his mother, ever read the complete works of Immanuel Kant. It is humanly impossible to read the complete works of Immanuel Kant, all 38,453 close-set pages of it (not including the voluminous supplements, addenda and commentaries added to the later editions).

Fortunately for science, Mitzie Kant (yes, you guessed it: his darling mum) kept a meticulous notebook about her reading efforts, since she earnestly tried to keep track of what little Manny was doing. It is this notebook – known among insiders as “Mutti´s Lektur Notizen (subtitled: Nicht ‘reinkucken, Manny!!)”, of which strictly reserved copies are being kept in the strongboxes of the more prominent Faculties of Philosophy around the globe – which ever since its discovery in the library of the Bohemian antiquarian Václav Hanka, has served as the basis for all subsequent Kant-studies. As a matter of fact, there is a whole – secret – branch of philology specialized in Mitzie Kant´s handwriting and semantics.

As said: Kant was a funny little bugger. He was born and died in Königsberg (these wayward days called Kaliningrad, unless the Ruskies have the changed that again in the meanwhile) and never left the city but once, when called to Berlin. To get there he took a stagecoach and got so violently sea-sick that after only a few miles he forced the driver to turn back, threatening him with a complete explanation of his latest views on the Categorical Imperative if the man continued another minute.

Kant was a man of strict habits. Every afternoon, he took a constitutional through the town centre, always by the exact same route, at the exact same time, taking the exact same number of steps. So much at the exact same time, as a matter of fact, that the inhabitants of Konigsberg, instead of using the church tower clocks, set their portable watches to the far more reliable calibration of Immanuel Kant strolling by.

Another of his Kantics concerned matrimony. Having decided that a Man, once he has made his way in the world, by duty bound ought to marry, Kant looked around for a suitable bride and soon found an eligible girl. However, before declaring himself and taking the big step, he decided to calculate the consequences of marriage to his household purse. He set to work on that task with his usual thoroughness. By the time he was finished, his bride-to-be had been happily married to another man and borne her husband three children.

In his philosophical system, which does not concern us here, Kant maintained, among many, many, MANY other things, that if your best friend comes panting into your apartment and tells you he is wanted by the police and could he please take refuge in your bedroom, the sacrosanct duties of friendship prescribe that you should hide him. But if, perchance, the police then comes knocking on your door and asks ‘Is your friend here?’ you are supposed to answer: ‘Yes sir, he is. You will find him in the bedroom’. For what would become of this world, Kant dares us, if everybody started lying to the police?? 

With philosophers like that, who needs Vidkun Quisling?

The sensible thing to say about Immanuel Kant at a cocktail party is therefore: ‘Purely in a Category of his own!’