Taking some time off work recently, I got myself some short stories by PG Wodehouse, the brilliant english satirist - who incidentally spread nazi propaganda as a prisoner of the Germans during WWII. Useless trivia and abysmally incomplete if you think about the fact that I haven't given you any context whatsoever. But go look it up on wikipedia or something! Anyway, to continue.. An amazing book called "Three men and a maid". And no, you dirty minded perverts - maid here represents a gentle young woman who has the affections of three men at the same time. Eh, that didn't quite convey what I meant to, but you get the picture. The *right* one, hopefully.
I thought a passage from it would be rather humorous - and portray the brilliant which PGW put forth in his books..
The thing in the way of modern progress is more remarkable than the manner in which the attitude of your run of the mill lover has changed concerning proposals of marriage. When Samuel Marlowe's grandfather had convinced himself, after about a year and a half of respectful aloofness, that the emotion which he felt towards Samuel Marlowe's grandmother-to-be was love, the fashion of the period compelled him to approach the matter in a roundabout way. First, he spent an evening or two singing sentimental ballads, she accompanying him on the piano and the rest of the family sitting on the side-lines to see that no rough stuff was pulled. Having noted that she drooped her eyelashes and turned faintly pink when he came to the "Thee--only thee!" bit, he felt a mild sense of encouragement, strong enough to justify him in taking her sister aside next day and asking if the object of his affections ever happened to mention his name in the course of conversation. Further _pour-parlers_ having passed with her aunt, two more sisters, and her little brother, he felt that the moment had arrived when he might send her a volume of Shelley, with some of the passages marked in pencil. A few weeks later, he interviewed her father and obtained his consent to the paying of his addresses. And finally, after writing her a letter which began "Madam! you will not have been insensible to the fact that for some time past you have inspired in my bosom feelings deeper than those of ordinary friendship...." he waylaid her in the rose-garden and brought the thing off.
How different is the behaviour of the modern young man. His courtship can hardly be called a courtship at all. His methods are those of Sir W. S. Gilbert's Alphonso.
"Alphonso, who for cool assurance all creation licks,
He up and said to Emily who has cheek enough for six:
'Miss Emily, I love you. Will you marry? Say the word!'
And Emily said: 'Certainly, Alphonso, like a bird!'"
Its stuff like this which brings about those bouts of laughter when not in conversation with wierd people about wierder things..
Which brings me to the point of Sushi. Uhm. It does? It does. I have no idea why I suddenly thought of this. It might have something to do with an article I read earlier in the day about pufferfish and other kinds of potentially dangerous sushi where you put your life in the hands of someone you don't know. Namely the su-chef. Short for sushi chef of course! no? :)
I'm always surprised at the yuppie behavior which accompanies this very exotic dish. Fugu as its also known as, is just the pinnacle of what sushi connoisseurs love to eat. But first, let me expound my own views on Sushi. So you've got this great sushi bar in town which has fancy stuff lined up on ice in its picture glass windows. Enter, and you shall find, of all things, a *conveyor belt* on which food rotates around a common, bar like area. So far not so bad. After all, technology is the future, especially with the japanese and their raw fish. So be it. You adjust. Your oath of never eating food which moves is down the drain of course?
Behold, gummy gelatinous rice which not only sticks together, but is mixed up with half a dozen toppings you or no one else actually recognizes. Exotic, you think - and don't make a huff about it. Apart from having thrown in a lot of detritus from the bottom of the sea - namely seaweed on it, for apparent nutritional purposes and to enhance the taste of the dish. Or to cover up the other piquances which go with it, I'm sure. The only problem - its slimy texture coupled with its lack of any flavor make seaweed a bad candidate to mask another taste. Or you might be luck enough to have some fish spawn in its crunch goodness smeared across it. Or if you're REALLY lucky (and have a lot of money to spend), a raw squid pseudop
Swanky chefs will now come out, and parlay their expertise in the art of sushi making - toss together some of the above goodness with pieces of bulgy eyed fish roughly lifted from platters of (not-so-hygenic) ice. And I guess it must be against rules in sushi-dom to wear gloves when doing this. Add a pair of sweaty hands as the chef tries his best to make something which doesn't quite look half eaten, and doesn't kill you while its at it. Now don't even get me started on fish - which are nothing but filthy creatures swimming in their own filth and are best friends with barnacles, algae and other non-entities in the aquatic foodchain. (Yes, plankton too!).
And now, the defining moment. As the plate of freshly constructed sushi-art crawls towards of you, the fish lying there - beseeching you to eat it, to get it off that slimy weed and rice combo, and salvage it from the ignominous fate that is its end.. Bliss. It tastes so damn good! And when combined with the platters of good cholestrols and white, fat free meat which you're ingesting, the vinegary goodness of pickled seaweed offset by salty rice - you think, what could possibly be wrong with the world?
Enter the Fugu. Spelled as its rhymed with Cthulhu. A type of pufferfish which is so poisonous that it kills you within a few minutes of having eaten it. Unless of course, the sushi chef has done his magic with the fish and cut it in one go SUCH THAT the posion has been cleanly chopped off. Would I trust my chef to have done this properly? Without comprehensive medical backup, and the utmost confidence in my fellow human being, I personally, would gently lay the ghost of fugu to rest. And move on to things which actually exist to be eaten - like a chocolate truffle, or one of those burgers from Rudy's. With their gourmet frites and an excellent collection of gourmet sauces and maybe a Red Stripe or Long trail to accompany the whols shebang.
A lazy saturday morning seemed to be the ideal antidote to what turned out to be a few of the most intense weeks ever. Hiking across deserts without food and sleep, working on some projects, and walking to work every day (ok, not so much the walk!) made me pre-decide that I'd do nothing on Saturday. Excellent. Which meant of course that I wouldn't cook either. Bright fella that I am, I decided to use some delivery services and check out the various gastronomical options available near by.. Big mistake.
It turns out that none of these places - Waiter on Wheels for instance, or restaurants here in general don't deliver food orders below a certain monetary limit. One which is too expensive for regular orders anyway. But forging ahead with my ironclad plans to do nothing - I did so anyway. Just this once. Just THIS Once! Chinese take out it was, in the end, the Kung Pao going down much better than some limp noodle thingies. I'm glad I know how to cook. As I ate, I was flipping channels and encountered what is fast becoming one of my favorite channels - yes, you guessed it - the Food network!
Why? As a friend puts it - you're staring at the TV, there's no drama or nail-biting-edge-of-the-seat action, you know the shows going to end well, it looks nice, you have the option of trying to or not to learn whatever the recipe is.. and hey, its food. Apart from sex, its the single most important driving factor today - right? When people aren't looking for diverse booty (sic), they're looking for methods to get food. After all, you earn money so that you can eat. Well, most of you anyway - exceptions abound.
Anyway. There has been a particular show which I end up watching, whether I want to or not. Serendipity, I would like to imagine. Mostly, its because it has reruns exactly when I flip to that particular channel. Not that its a bad thing, but Paula's home cooking is a show I have loved to hate. Her twangy southern drawl, recipes which are anything but homely, and a rather overbearing attitude make all the difference in what could be an even better show than it is right now.. But for some mysterious reason, I STILL WATCH it. Hehe, what cracked me up was that this particular episode was being filmed in the UK and France. Question - What happens when an american chef visits countries which have a culinary history that rivals the very best in the world? Pure fun, thats what!
First stop - London. After being surprised at the fresh meats and preservative free veggies available at markets which date back to the 12th century - and making sure everyone there knew how tough food restrictions were in the US, she sampled a bunch of very interesting looking delicacies. Moving around the counties, she discovers that blue cheese indeed doesn't come from blue cows, and that fresh cheese is much more creamy than the types she's used to back home - chock full of preserves and whatnot! Alright, we're getting the picture, you say? Wait. There's more.
Moving on to France after a particularly greasy chip sandwich - white bread with large potato chips (homestyle fries, yankee style), she commits one of the biggest blunders you can commit if you're into food - calling fine chocolate - *Candy*. Come on. You're staring at arrays and arrays of truffles, bonbons and exotic liqueur filled (delicate) chocolate shells, and popping them into yourself - all the while calling them candy. Hershey's now, is candy. M&Ms more so. But thats a travesty you don't commit - giving the manna that is Godiva, the nomenclature fit only for peanut-butter-caramel-shells!
But France. Rotisserie chickens, (Much better than southern fried chicken [sic]), extensive wine based truffle dishes, and dozens of pies later - she chances across a french gentleman who talks about how the poultry from Bresse county is the best. Bresse. Alarm bells ringing, I cringed in advance waiting for the obvious joke about boobies - and there it was! "Whah di' tha' man say abou' my breahhsts". Loud laughter followed. The french, not to be taken lightly, did an immediate retort about the 'Guns of Navarone' and that pretty much shut her up :) Best moment ever. The show did however take a very emotional turn because her husband surprised her with not only a beautiful roof-top dinner in full view of the eiffel, but also invited their children over to share it with - all of this a surprise of course.
I'm surprised they covered her actually crying. Oh well. I guess you live and learn.
One of my favorite activities when working is to listen to music, or even better, a smashing radio show from the UK called the Geoff Show. Virgin Radio UK have a live webcast of all their shows available around the world, and I must say they do quality programming... Consider a list of activities which this 3 hour show spans :)
Regular features of the show include:
- The Phone In: listeners telephone the station with their ideas, views and experiences concerning a choice of 101 different topics from the website.
- Porting Controversy: a humourous, self-opinionated, debate against widely held beliefs by Annabel Port, such as 'the Mona Lisa is a good piece of artwork' and 'reading is fun'.
- Drunk versus Stoned: a quiz in which someone who has been drinking alcohol competes with another listener who has been smoking cannabis in order to win a menial prize.
- The Dirty Book at Bedtime: an erotic story read by Annabel Port
But whats interesting is that the music scene in the UK is still dominated by genres which have almost faded out in most parts of the US. All the shows on Virgin, for example are liberally sprinkled with genuinely good Indie bands or the golden oldies - specifically people like Morrissey, The Smiths, The Killers, Oasis, and whathaveyou. Now most people who know me know my penchance for such music - to the extent of having listened to some of them on constant repeat - specifically a song called 'Strange Powers' by the Magnetic Fields. Brilliant song, I highly recommend it. (courtsey - TheHuang).
It was thus highly unsurprising to suddenly come across a bunch of music festivals happening almost every month all around the UK - specfically at Wembley, Leeds and other such, which have top bands headlining - I don't mean top in terms of their popularity, because a large number have regionalistic fan bases, and exceptionally good music. The Proclaimers, who shot to fame with their song '500 miles' are on too. Looking at the two brothers who lead the band - bespectacled, geeky hairstyles, 70s clothes replete with checked shirts and short trousers, leather shoes and flaring scarves, a "wee ye highland lass" accent - you wouldn't think they would be a rock phenomenon. Oh well.
Coming to humor heard very often on Brit channels - here's a small sample:
Moo.I don't know about you, but I cried lauging. Seriously. I'm not even sure if its that funny, buts its just so typically knee-jerkfully-british, that - well, it bests even the most stoic of us.. :) Of course, radio ads on the channel are a totally different story, which in my opinion, warrants an entire blog entry all by itself. Looks like I've got material lined up for the next instance hehe.
Anyway, all this got me wondering about the british music scene, and how its still the home to most of the best selling acts out there. Is there some magical ingredient which exists in the british isles that is missing from the rest of the world?
Consider, yet again -
The Kaiser Chiefs - Scotland, Glasgow
Belle and Sebastain - Scotland
The Smiths - Britain
Franz Ferdinand - Scotland
OMD - Britain
Depeche Mode - Britain
The Cure - Britain
And I've just spanned about 20 years of rock history there..
Sure funk is good, and the Black Eyed Peas have their fans jumping over backwards whenver they perform. Ludacris can rap his heart out, and incite cheers and applause from all sorts of crowds, as I noticed at his performance at Yale a couple of months ago. Of course, half the people there had no idea who he was, but welcomed the opportunity to randomly move around campus in hooded sweatshirts! But - why haven't there been more of these bands headlining all sorts of shows outside the UK? Should be an interesting thing to look at!