More Food Porn

FishDish
Tonight’s dinner: Mystery Fish on a Bed of Pilau Rice .

As I mentioned, I bought a mixed lot of frozen fish so I’m not actually sure what this is. Whiting I think though. Grilled on a tray rubbed with butter, with a few leaves of fresh basil and mint in top. Why basil and mint? Because those are the ones I have growing in pots in the kitchen. I have them growing in pots in the kitchen because they smell so good. Lay it on a bed of simple pilau rice, serve with a little soy sauce, and that’s really all there is to it.

About the simplest meal possible, yet the result is somehow magically delicious. You don’t often hear of mint being used with fish, but I was very pleased with the flavour combination.

Seriously, someone needs to marry me.

RoastChicken

And this is nothing but a chicken what I roast. A lot of course for one person; I was having it in omelettes, stir fries and salads nearly every other day for the next week. I show it here mainly because I am really damn proud of the photograph. Chicken is a natural model.

Narwhal Circus

…Will be resumed as soon as possible. I’m in bed with a bad cold.

Well I say bed, it’s more the couch, in front of the TV. Sipping a hot drink. I’m recording TV and updating my phone. In the oven, a whole chicken is roasting for dinner. It doesn’t sound much like hardship, and I have to admit it’s not. I’d probably enjoy doing this little – if I was doing it of my own free will.

But I’m cooking the chicken now because on Sunday I was too fuzz-headed to figure out how, and I haven’t written this blog – or done anything much else even remotely constructive – in days. I think the closest I got to creativity was a couple of rounds of the Game of Liff over on my friend Susan’s blog, and even then I faded out almost immediately.

That’s typical in fact. I don’t feel so bad – my inner ears are little diving bells, but there’s no other real discomfort – I just can’t concentrate. Not that I’m a paragon of laserlike focus when I’m well, it might be admitted, but now I’m all, you know, kind of

That was going to be a sentence that trailed off aimlessly, but while I was writing I honestly fell asleep. Weirdly, my attempt to describe reality became the reality. But I feel a bit better for it at least. Maybe today I can write something coherent.

Hoping you’re well.

Hallmarked For Life

Roses are infra
Violets are ultra
Invisible flowers
That I bought to insult ya

So what did you do for the Feast of Frustration? I had a great idea. I made a date with an attractive woman.

Then I cancelled the date, stayed at home and wrote an emotional letter to the woman who dumped me three weeks ago. That sounds like a good idea, right?

Actually it was. OK, I cancelled because I’m exhausted and a little unwell after the (finished!!!) major commission, which kept me up most of the last two nights and days. And to be honest it wasn’t really a date, but dinner with a friend who had also broken up with someone recently. So more a sort of anti-date.

And that letter was something that had been brewing in my head for the last few days. Now I had time to write it, and V-Day seemed like a good pretext. It was more for my benefit than hers – though it might I hope be to hers also. A way for me to let go of the angry stage and move on to the philosophical.

I had a good girlfriend there, I could really see a future for us. But it’s over. Sad, but what can you do? Die just a little inside, smile ruefully, and remember the best parts. She is a great woman and I wish her nothing but better things.

There, I’m sane. Sappy, but sane. I have moved on, I’m over her, my emotional tensions are all resolved and I am ready again to form a new relationship.

Preferably immediately. Anyone free this evening?

Just Like Mamma Used To Buy

Two varieties of ginger as sold in Haikou, Hai...
It's not even like there's only one kind of ginger

I had a sudden flash of insight into why some children are such finicky eaters. It’s consistency. Modern food is too consistent.

Kids are dubious about new tastes. For good reason – they are born into a world that consists mostly of things you shouldn’t put in your mouth. The corollary though is that once they’ve tried something a few times and found it to be safe, they become keen on that.

That’s not a problem with home-made food. Even cooked to the same recipe by the same person, even when prepared by an expert chef, flavour varies. Personally I’ve never cooked the same meal twice. Hell, my spaghetti sauce rarely comes out the same colour. Not so with prepared foods. To encourage customer loyalty, the inevitable inconsistencies of the natural flavours are drowned out by simpler artificial ones. The only remarkable change in the taste of branded food for the last few decades was when US bottlers of soft drinks switched from cane to corn syrup, and merely swapping between minor variants on the theme of pure sugar almost caused war.

The upshot is that more and more now kids don’t develop a tolerance for variation, and so a broader flavour palette. Instead they become convinced that only certain tightly-defined tastes are tolerable.

This occurred to me today because I bought a ginger cake. It’s a nice ginger cake. You can really taste ginger, which is good in my book. It’s moist and sweet and very traditional. By most objective criteria, I’d be willing to claim that this was an excellent – even an ideal – ginger cake.

But it ain’t a McVitie’s Jamaica Ginger Cake.

Reader, I was that child.

Shiny, Shiny Shark

iridescent shark catfish Pangasius hypophthalmus
Weird-looking fish

I know I’m writing about dinner a lot this week, but it’s really not my beat. I have friends – Domestigeek, Zucchini and Aubergine – who blog about food far more entertainingly than I ever could. Because they write better? I would deny that of course. But they sure as hell eat better.

OK, the days are over when I regarded beer as the staple and takeaway fried chicken as the health supplement. Seriously, I lived that way for years. Well, I say lived. Nowadays I’m a reformed character, all fruit and nuts and vegetables and cereals. But though my diet is healthy, it’s still not really interesting. There is only so much you can say about bran.

Today though was an exception. Today, I ate iridescent shark.

This is not a 60s band from San Francisco, it’s a type of catfish farmed extensively in Southeast Asia. I understand it’s fairly common in the US where it’s often called tra or swai, but it’s pretty much unknown here and was being offered under its taxonomic name pangasius. At an introductory price of just one euro a fillet too – but really, they had me at the Latin.

Even better, the place was about to close so she gave me the remaining four for the price of two. Mushrooms also being on special offer, I bought a punnet and grilled the whole lot together with butter and just a cheeky sprinkling of mélange d’herbes. The fish was pleasantly unusual. A little earthy, though not so much as catfish usually is, but quite sweet and fatty as well. I didn’t think I could eat four of them, but it was just exactly enough to make me feel sinfully stuffed. And all for three euro.

My cooking tip of the day then: Buy weird-looking fish they’re about to throw out.

And Now For Some Random Facts

Huge ocean sunfish (mola mola) at Outer Bay ex...
In German, the sunfish is sometimes known as Schwimmender Kopf, or "swimming head"

Jell-O is the official state snack of Utah. This is the sort of thing you could make up and people would believe it, but in this case it happens to be true.

Vegetables and fruit served in savoury jelly is sometimes called “congealed salad“, possibly the worst name ever given to something you expect another human being to eat.

Jell-O and other brands of jelly are made of collagen extracted from the boiled bones, connective tissues, organs and some intestines of animals such as cattle and horses. Though contrary to popular belief, there are no hooves in it.

So that’s a relief then.

Something Weird In The Graveyard

Brendan and his monks' ship is carried by a gi...
OK, this time this image is relevant...

Well all right, there are probably countless oddities in any graveyard. For example this cherub. It has a head of short curls of course, but at the back its hair is shoulder length. Presumably this serves to strengthen the figure’s neck. The unfortunate result though is an angel with a mullet, sure sign that heaven has gone to the dogs.

But not far from my own father’s grave – which we are here to tend – is a tiny new one, less I think than two feet long. On the simple wooden marker, not one name but two. And they are Dutch – Henk and Aukje Fase.

Dramatic explanations like an unnamed child – or even a pet – leap to mind, but either would be in breach of some basic Christian graveyard ideas. A more sober theory is that the tiny grave contains an urn of ashes; an unusual arrangement here but one I believe is allowed now. Two names though. You sense a story – and hope it’s not that they died together. That’s rarely good.

Perhaps it had been their wish, once they were both gone, for their ashes to be mingled and interred here. I wouldn’t blame them, it is a beautiful place. The grounds of a monastery founded by Saint Brendan the Navigator, a man who in the Sixth Century set out on a voyage to Paradise. Or possibly America. Intriguingly, there is a very old Dutch version of the legend., and in it he specifically leaves from here in Galway.

But there’s too much death altogether this week. My girlfriend just lost a cousin who was only my age. And a cousin of my mother’s mother has just died. That’s my cousin twice removed I think. Ok, fairly distant; sitting in this graveyard I’m probably surrounded by people I’m more closely related to than that. I wouldn’t have remarked on her at all were it not for the fact that she lived to be one hundred and five.

That’s a proper go.