A Tale of Two Kitchens

This year, amongst the places I’ve eaten, two stand out for their kitchens. We’ve the impression - from the occasional glimpse through those swinging doors, or from Gordon Ramsay and his like on TV, that kitchens are noisy, busy, chaotic places, but these two restaurants (and I’m sure many others) prove that it doesn’t have to be so.

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A Summer Food Blog

Before things start getting serious again, here are two small and simple ideas for improving the quality of life on a warm summer evening.
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Tech detox

So when it all gets too much … what do you do?

After finally solving the problem with SEF links in my Joomla/Mojoblog site yesterday morning, I’d had enough - of PHP, CMS systems, plug-ins, Chunks, Snippets, Rails, the whole lot. So a day and a half off-line has cleared my head.

Staying with Joseph last weekend rekindled my passion for food, so I’ve been cooking (a hat-tip to Joseph for an amazing asparagus and salsiccio pasta recipe). Reading - finished Geoff Dyer’s wonderfully evocative But Beautiful, and almost (so nearly) finished the amazing 2666 by Robert BolaƱo - at the point where I really don’t want it to end, I’m so into it. Playing, of course: there’ll be a (rare) musical blog shortly on Sor’s Op.6 studies, and the art of balancing the apparently simple with the intriguingly complex, and achieving perfection in the seemingly ordinary.

A visit to the RA’s impressive exhibition of prints by Kuniyoshi, with my daughter Evelyn and her partner. (Amazing colours, and in the earlier warrior prints in particular an overwhelming sense of movement. These were the original mass-media images, it was interesting to try to rewind my head to the days before screens, TV, video, films, where the only images were static ones).

Having been digging for a while, I found and downloaded a great performance of the Monteverdi Vespers of 1610, by the group Concerto Italiano. Immediate and vivid, and (unlike many performances) using small choral forces.

Helped of course by the gorgeous weather and a good bottle of wine! Head back in the game tomorrow, but it’s been a good weekend.

Food and community - a little social experiment

Not that it was planned as one, but during SPA2009 I came into possession (how is not important…) of a big tub of sweets. These were just ordinary goodies, not fancy Belgian chocolates, the sort of thing you can buy at any newsagent here. I’ve a sweet tooth, but not that sweet, so I opened the tub and put it on a table in the common area at the conference.

An hour later I strolled by, and noticed that the tub was half empty. Another hour, and the tub was still half-empty, but only because someone else had bought some different sweets, and added them to the tub. And an hour after that, a box of cookies had joined the tub of sweets.

I find this interesting, and a great indicator of the sort of community the conference engenders. The sweets acted as an attractor, and (though I didn’t see it) I can imagine people passing the bowl, looking, commenting to someone else standing around, taking a candy or two, and feeling quietly better about the day. Not that they needed lifting, but my spirits were definitely higher when I saw the way others had added to the stock.

Particularly if it’s not a habit with you or your team, try bringing in a couple of bars of chocolate or a tub of cookies. Don’t make a big deal of it, just put them down somewhere people can see them and take one. Then see what happens.

Unintended consequences…

Love the way that in Google Mail, when you delete spam, the helpful related link so thoughtfully provided usually points to a recipe involving Spam. Who, for example, could resist these Savory Spam Crescent Rolls? Mmmmmm….maybe not tonight, dear.

Poached eggs

Eggs - simple, really. Boiled (and if you can’t boil an egg, you won’t get a lot out of what follows), scrambled (harder than they look, but hey), fried (mmm), omelettes (and there’s an art to these, too), but - poached… For years I had a hit rate of about 30%, ending up more often than not with a saucepan full of tiny streamers of cooked egg with a yolk sitting smugly - somewhere - in the cloudy middle. So I researched (aka googled) and discovered many approaches: use poaching rings, leave your egg in a tiny bowl to cook (cheating, by the way, and you end up with a bowl-shaped egg that’s not been in contact with the water - the same goes for those regrettably bourgeois egg-poaching pans, with the little lift-out cups ), making a whirlpool in the middle of your pan (this was getting desperate), even the “wrap it in clingfilm” approach (supposedly what the pros use, but really - have you ever tried wrapping a raw egg in clingfilm? Or removing clingfilm from a soft-poached egg without most of the egg remaining tangled in the clingfilm? If you poach your egg for so long that it’ll bounce, then this might be OK, but that’s missing the point entirely).
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