Posts Tagged With: Yorkshire pudding

I think, therefore I am not good enough?

It's 2015: may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb...

It’s 2015: may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb…

I can’t get started this year. It’s 2015, the year of the sheep, and I feel like a toad. I want to be good this year. But I’m confused. You see, the other night I dreamt I was in a giant maze made of Yorkshire pudding.

...and there was Yorkshire pudding everywhere, everywhere!

…and there was Yorkshire pudding everywhere, everywhere!

It was scary. As I tried to find my way out I kept bumping into famous dead philosophers. Every time I saw one I asked the same question: “How can I be a better person in 2015?” Here’s a summary of what they told me:

Socrates: The first of three Greek blokes with beards, this one asked me why I wanted to be good. I said I wanted to do good things, you know, help others and not be selfish. He asked me why I believed in “good” and “not good”. Then I was stumped. He told me to forget dwelling on right and wrong and try to grow as an individual. Evidently I need to love the universe and my own life within it, but always to question what people tell me. Then, just before he vanished, he stroked his beard and said: “Remember, to be is to do.” I was still confused.

Please, Mr Plato,can I keep my poetry books?

Please, Mr Plato, can I keep my poetry books?

Plato: This old stick was a bit severe. When he found out I loved poetry he turned nasty and told me to throw my poetry books in the river Styx. Poetry is bad for me, evidently, because it’s not “true”, it’s only fiction. He told me everything on earth is imperfect, so I can’t be ‘good’ because ‘goodness’ is an illusion. And all my relationships have to be ‘Platonic’ from now on. Plato’s world sounded a bit strict for me. Luckily I had the Yorkshire pudding to console me.

Aristotle: I had to define ‘goodness’ for this real scientific guy. What is essential about being good, he asked me, what must be always present in an act of goodness, something that cannot be removed from the equation? I said ‘love’. He smiled, and for a second I thought he must like me, at least more than moody old Plato. “So, go forth and multiply”, he said, “with your earthly love”. Great.

"It is too difficult to think nobly when one thinks only of earning a living." Right on, Jean Jacques

“It is too difficult to think nobly when one thinks only of earning a living”, said Mr Rousseau

Descartes: This French guy had a really strong accent. What I think he asked me was how did I know that my ‘life’ was not just one big dream. Good question. “You think, therefore you think you are”, he said. I suddenly realised my dream was happening inside a much bigger one. Hmm. So, the shrew I found in 1967 in Heaton Woods that accidentally died on the way home was just an illusion, like everything else. What a relief!

Rousseau: Another French bloke, Jean Jacques told me to ditch all my possessions pronto and get back to nature. Get naked and live organically. Mankind, in his (or her) natural state is not avaricious and envious, but kind and considerate. So, it would be easy to be good, he told me, when human beings had dispensed with their silly commodity society. Being naturally human again, living in the woods on berries and nuts, would be noble, not savage. Voila!

Friedrich 'Superman' Nietzsche with his walrus 'tache

Friedrich ‘Superman’ Nietzsche and his walrus impression

Nietzsche: Friedrich’s moustache was awesome and made him look like a walrus! He was ranting in German but then toned it down a bit when I approached. He told me to imagine a place beyond good and evil and asked me what I would find there. I said ‘love’ again, and he said “Ja, Heureka!”  Then he told me not to trust language because it was only used to boss people around; I have to will myself to escape from language and ‘morality’ to a distant, metaphysical place where I can be a ‘Superman’. Sounds a bit mad to me. When I left, Friedrich was hugging a horse.

I want to be an existentialist just like you Jean Paul

I want to be an existentialist just like you, Jean Paul

Sartre: Another French guy, this one with inch-thick glasses, a funny eye and a fat cigarette in his mouth. He asked me what exactly I based my decisions on. I said the circumstances. He said those circumstances are always beyond my control, so choosing one way instead of another is absurd. I kind of agreed with him. Then he asked if I had a spare cigarette, preferably Gauloises. He looked really sad when I said no. Before I left, he said “Remember, jeune homme, to do is to be.”

How do you mean do be do be do?

Stranger in the Night: Frankie

All of a sudden I found the exit to the maze, which was lucky because I was stuffed with pudding. But I was still confused and feeling sad that I didn’t have a definitive answer to my question about being good. Then, out of the distance came a shadowy figure who seemed to be singing to himself as he walked towards me. It was Frank Sinatra! “Hey, kid, what’s up?” he said. So I told him about the philosophers and my dilemma. He asked me what had been the best advice so far. I said Socrates told me “To be is to do” and Sartre told me “To do is to be”. Frank agreed that was really confusing. Then suddenly he smiled and said, “Wait a minute, kid, I got your answer!” “Tell me, please!”, I said. “Do be do be do!”, he said. Then I woke up singing Strangers in the Night, which I realised was a great title for my dream.

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Categories: Great Minds, Musings | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s that funny smell in the kitchen?

Oh, no! My Cornish pasties have exploded!

Oh, no! My Cornish pasties have exploded!

I love cooking – but even after years of practice I am prone to disasters which leave me in a sulk.  I’m the reckless type – the bloke who guesses everything, mixes this with that and makes a big mess. For sheer effort I am probably a peg or two above the average bloke who sticks to 2 or 3 dishes. Let’s put it this way, I reckon I would just about survive on school dinner duty….as long as spotted dick wasn’t on the menu.

Yes, I’ve learnt a few things in the kitchen after making a basinful of mistakes, so for those who may be interested, here’s a few of my observations.

Evelyn Waugh: "Pass the butter, darling!"

Evelyn Waugh: “Pass the butter, darling!”

For me, the 3 most important things in the kitchen are sharp knives, butter and imagination. If you visit a friend and notice their cutlery drawer contains no decent knives, you can be sure they are not bucking for Cordon Bleu. As for butter, I remember Evelyn Waugh recounting a story about the French chef who would walk around the kitchen tasting soups and sauces and shouting “More butter!” Imagination is probably the most important; it’s what you need every day when you open the fridge and see all those sad-looking leftovers.

Most blokes are very proud of their "spag bog"

Most blokes are very proud of their “spag bog”

Most people can cook a few things well. With blokes it tends to be spaghetti Bolognese. But if you want to find out how serious somebody is about cooking, ask them how often they use flour. Flour is the great divider. Making pastry and baking bread and cakes is a sign that you’ve reached the next grade. Pizza is easy if you buy the base, but it’s the base that makes a good pizza. You have to get your hands sticky with flour, water and yeast. Five years it has taken me to get my pizza base right: that’s 5 years of eating dodgy pizza. I can laugh now, but what a lot of suffering for my art! I almost cut my ear off.

Clement Freud's book is inspirational - and very funny

Clement Freud’s book is inspirational – and very funny

The jump from plain “spag bog” man to decent cook probably starts when you find yourself delving into cook books. One of my first influences was the late Clement Freud whose gem of a book Freud on Food I found in a second-hand shop. A witty, down-to-earth chef, Freud  has a pantry-full of tips to help you solve the daily problems of feeding your family. Here’s an example: season two or three fresh chicken breasts, douse them in flour, then sear them on both sides in a frying pan with a splash of hot oil. Then turn the heat down very low and throw in a nice knob of butter. Cover the pan with a lid and let it simmer very gently for 15 minutes or so. What you get is succulent poached chicken that melts in your mouth and a butter sauce you can dribble over the breasts when serving.

Crispy bacon and pancakes...before the flood of syrup!

Crispy bacon and pancakes…before the flood of syrup!

Cooking a good breakfast is another thing most blokes claim to be good at. It usually means a fry-up with lots of frazzle and grease. My favourite breakfast is crispy bacon and pancakes. My pancakes used to be thin and rubbery, but now I try and make them thick and fluffy – the way they serve them in the USA. I use baking powder and yoghurt (buttermilk is better) and keep the batter quite thick, spooning it onto the hot melted butter in the frying pan. Maple syrup costs as much as uranium in Brazil, so I sometimes squeeze a couple of oranges and a dash of lemon into a little pan with a big spoonful of sugar and reduce it down to a syrup. Pancakes and orange sauce – my version of Crêpes Suzette, I suppose. Yummee!

Go on - get your hands sticky! That's if you want real pizza.

Go on – get your hands sticky! That’s if you want real pizza.

As a Yorkshireman, you’d think I was a dab hand at Yorkshire Puddings. Well, I used to think mine were OK, until I told my mother they didn’t always rise. “You’re using too much flour, and it’s got to be plain flour”, she said. “But how do they rise if it’s not self-raising flour?”, I naively asked. “I don’t know”, she said. Then my brother chipped in with, “you need more fat in the tray as well”. Now my Yorkshires usually perform, but not always.

In the old days, I used to keep my fingers crossed after putting something in the oven. But that didn’t work. So now I say a little prayer. I think somebody up there likes me. Sometimes.

Categories: Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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