Monthly Archives: August 2015

Good Eatin’: A Saturday Meeting

 List Item: Try half of the combined 1001 food books

Saturday meetings. Does anyone actively seek them out? No? Thought not. Here’s the thing though, I don’t mind them. With the people that I work with it can actually be quite fun, especially when I am made to book the meeting into an external venue (due to a mixture of it being fairly last minute and the busy time of year in my building).

The first three food items in this post came from the lunch of that meeting where we were actually given a menu to choose from.

Food item: Quail Egg

For the starter it was mushrooms on sourdough bread which was topped with a fried quail egg. Now, I am a big fan of sourdough bread, in fact it would be up there as one of my favourite bread types. The quail’s egg, however, was a bit of a disappointment. It tested just like a normal egg to me, only a wee bit smaller.

Food item: Pommes Gratin Dauphinoise

For the main was roasted pieces of chicken with Dauphinoise potatoes and “crushed carrots”. I had been eyeing a ready made pack of Dauphinoise potatoes in the Co-op so… score. They were easily the best part of the main course; creamy, hot and fluffy.

Food item: Eton Mess

So this was dessert. It’s my mums favourite dessert and yet I have never had it before. I am not sure how that adds up either. In the book they misspell the name of this dessert as Eaton mess, which just goes to show how you need people with subject knowledge as your final proof reader.

It was gorgeous and of it was not for a mixture of shame and a full stomach I would have finished the Eton mess of the attendee that left. I also knew that there was Domino’s for dinner so I was ‘good’.

Food item: Blueberry Muffin

 Else where in the week I had the first blueberry muffin for a very long time. It was NOT the gorgeous ban offer muffin from the local Raddisson Blu but it was still delicious. It even had a cream cheese filling, which is always welcome.

Food item: Chestnut Mushrooms

Finally got around to including this in the blog, mainly since I forgot to take a picture of these three times before now.  Why do I have these so often? Because these are my favourite mushrooms and I used them to make stroganoff.

Food item: Black Lime

 Okay, so this needs a bit more of an explanation. I bought these black limes a month or so ago when I also bought that weird Eastern European beetroot paste.  Since then they have been sitting in my cupboard waiting to be used. Until now, when I got it into my head to follow a recipe for black lime tea.

List item: Buy an appliance that you use once and forget about
Status: Completed

So this is a weird time to cross off this item, but it’s the time this cropped up… since I completely forgot I had a slow cooker in the back of my cupboard and only noticed it when I needed a vessel large enough to hold 3 litres of water as well as a bunch of crushed black limes. After heating, straining and sweetening we had the finished tea and it was only okay. I can see why you would use black lime in a meal. It does give it an extra lime chutney bit of flavour to things, not necessarily the best hing for tea though.

IMG_1373Food items: Kofte, Pitta, Tzatziki

Rounding off the week was a rather nice bank holiday meal at my mum’s. It’s a further example of just how achieveable a lot of these foods are on the new lost. I mean I still have hot chocolate, green tea and peaches to do…. maybe that will be a post next week?

Progress: 545/933

Advertisements

Around The World In 100 Films – Vietnam

100WorldFilms - VietnamList Item: Watch films from 100 different nations
Progress: 39/100

It has been an awfully long time since I have been able to add a new country to my list of film nations. This time it’s Vietnam’s turn as I look at Cyclo, a film that won at the Venice Film Festival and also appears on the 1001 list.

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 440/1007Title: Cyclo (Xích Lô)
Director: Trần Anh Hùng
Year: 1995
Country: Vietnam

The only reason that I ended up watching Cyclo tonight was because I was flicking through the 1001 Films book and came across a very eye-catching image in the book. A man covered in blue paint being embraced by a woman in white.  It’s one of those pages I always end up lingering on, so I figured that it was time that I actually watched the film.

Cyclo is one of those films that takes you to a place that most will never have experienced, in a City of God kind of way rather than a Frozen one. It very much has a Bicycle Thief thing going on in the beginning. A man makes his living by cycling (in this case a type of rickshaw), this device gets stolen, what does he do next.

Where in the 1950s Italian film he steals a bike and is made into a pariah, the unnamed cyclo driver is instead forced to pay-off the debt to his ‘boss lady’ by carrying out tasks for the local gang of hoodlums. This then leads to his sister falling for ‘the poet’, the leader of the gang who then leads her into strangely fetishistic prostitution. She doesn’t get ‘touched’ but she does have to deal with a man who wants to watch her pee standing up…

It’s one of those films that tries to take an unflinchingly realistic view at life in Vietnamese poverty, all to the backdrop of a lot of liquids and child labour. It’s a rewarding watch if you can deal with the fact that a lot of the plot gets lost in dialogue-less scenes. The film itself is beautifully shot with the final scene of the central nameless character smothering himself in blue paint being strangely mesmerizing.

Good Eatin’: Wedding Food Tasting

List Item: Try half of the combined 1001 food books

This is the year that I am getting married. Now, we booked the venue about a year and a half early (which is probably how we got our first choice venue) and the wedding has not really featured much in my thoughts. The honeymoon is a very different matter… I am so fucking excited about going to Japan. However, as it is starting to get closer and closer I am beginning to get excited. What has helped is that we are now getting to the parts involving food and centrepieces.

Food item: Coleslaw

I mean, how cool is it that we are going to have burgers, chicken, coleslaw and potato salad at the wedding? I know it isn’t traditional and that most people have a sit down meal… but that just is not us. The food itself was amazing, we had to narrow down the food and it was really hard. We did it. But it was hard.

Suddenly the wedding has become a lot more real. It’s not like I’m nervous as, to be honest, we are basically married in the way we are living right now. Not to be gushy but, God I love my partner.

Anyway, this  was a big week for list foods. It’s making me wish I had started this as a microblog. But hey ho.

Food item: Holy Basil (not pictured Cucumber Raita)

We found out recently that we have a local Nepalese takeaway. Not only that, but one that is considered Buzzfeed worthy. So with Hungryhouse offering a voucher it was time for us to give it a try.

Food items: Roti, Saffron, Pilau Rice, Saffron Rice

I wish I had got all of the food in one photo so I didn’t have to post a bunch of separate pictures. I also wish I had taken the picture of the cucumber raita. Still, what I can say about the Yak and Yeti is that the food was delicious. The best parts, the momo lamb dumplings, were a strange fusion of dim sum and curried lamb. Strange but appreciated.

There is not much to say about the individual foods here as they are fairly regular items on any Indian menu. The one I want to highlight is the holy basil. It was a herb that I had never seen before and here I was able to have it in a chicken curry dish. For something that has the word basil in its name it tasted nothing like it . In face, it was more like a subtler star anise. Not sure why it is called basil, must be a colonial throwback.

Food item: Lemon Meringue Pie

This week I had, yet another, off site paper committee meeting. The great thing about these meetings is how they can suddenly bring in a list food that you were not expecting. This time, It was a delicious dessert (and still they have not repeated the risotto primavera that I forgot to take a picture off two months ago… grrrr.

Still, I can not complain when I was presented with a lemon meringue pie. Even if I had to take it back to the meeting room to get some work done whilst everyone else was on lunch. Oh well. I don’t mind really.

Food item: Miso Soup and Kimchi (again)

Okay, nothing much here. It’s miso soup. Meant to be an acquired taste but I have always liked it. Preferably it would have the small bits of tofu floating inside of it but I am not too fussy with miso.

I was also an idiot when combining these two lists and did not remove the duplicate for kimchi…

Food item: Crayfish

Okay, so this came about because a colleague got a platter of Pret A Manger sandwiches during a meeting and there was a whole bunch of them left over. The crayfish and rocket one is really my favourite so I made a beeline for that when she put it out on the cabinet by her head, what I didn’t realise was that crayfish was a list item so I had to go back and take a picture of the only one that was remaining (I guess people in the office really like the crayfish and rocket sandwiches).

 Food item: Hush Puppies

It was Tuesday and at the work cafeteria they were doing pulled meats with all the trimmings. This included the really odd deep fried balls that are, strangely, not named after shoes. These felt a lot like the Dutch fried batter balls oliebollen, but instead they were savoury with spring onion and some sweetcorn inside. They were nice, but I just felt like I was gaining oil weight as I was eating them.

Progress: 536/933

XL Popcorn – His Girl Friday

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 439/1007Title: His Girl Friday
Director: Howard Hawks
Year: 1940
Country: USA

(I thought I would be able to write this whilst half-watching the 1973 film adaptation of Charlotte’s Webbut they’ve butchered it so much and inserted so many crappy songs that I got rather distracted by my anger… seriously what did they do to this story.)

If you have seen a number of screwball comedies then when you watch your next one you will know that there will be a wedding between the two main characters. It’s one of those cinematic inevitabilities that is so templated that half the fun of watching a screwball comedy is how they will get there in the end.

With Howard Hawks at the helm as director (who previously directed the screwball classic Bringing Up Baby) you know that you are going to get a quality film. The fact that he would later go on to direct The Big Sleep, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Rio Bravo (one of my favourite films) just speaks to his range.

Speaking of range – Cary Grant. As much as I enjoyed Rosalind Russell and the quick banter she enjoyed with the leading man, he just steals every scene he was in. I mean he was the only thing that made She Done Him Wrong even slightly watchable. When given a sharp, funny, rapid fire script… well he is just amazing (not Suspicion or Philidelphia Story amazing but still amazing).

The one issue with this film – is that it’s a profoundly unbelievable turn of events. But who the hell cares. It’s an enjoyable ride.

Acclaimed Albums – 3 Feet High And Rising by De La Soul

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 76/250

DeLaSoul3FeetHighandRisingalbumcoverTitle: 3 Feet High And Rising
Artist: De La Soul
Year: 1989
Position: #75

So we finally arrive at the first of four albums from the year I was born. When you look at the list chronologically it is around this time that rap starts to make an appearance. There is a bit of a concentration of rap and hip hop here with the likes of Public Enemy, Run D.M.C. and The Beastie Boys all making appearances.

From then on rap and hip hop appear sporadically with a greater concentration starting in more recent years once again. Weird, since I can not remember a time that this has not been high in the charts. It’s just one of those things I guess. After all, pop is everywhere and it’s grossly under-represented on this list.

I’m not going to spend much on this album, it failed to maintain my attention throughout and found myself thinking about all the music I could set up in my iTunes after it was finished (a mixture of St. Vincent, Liberty X, Sufjan Stevens, Natalie Prass and Carly Rae Jepsen). It takes a lot for this genre to keep me interested. It’s not like I don’t have rap and hip hop that I don’t listen to (Broke With Expensive Taste by Azaelia Banks being one I had on during work yesterday), but it’s not really my favourite.

Level One: Super Mario Kart

List Item: Play 100 of the greatest computer games
Progress: 44/100Title: Super Mario Kart
Developer: Nintendo
Platform: SNES
Year: 1992
Position: #24

So here we are again. It has been an awful while since I went into a video game. I blame Assassin’s Creed: Revelations and Dragon Age: Origins for taking up a lot of my gaming time so that I have not been able to move towards one of the list games.

It’s strange to go back to Super Mario Kart if you are someone who first really got to know the Mario Kart franchise via the really underrated Mario Kart: Double Dash on the Gamecube. Add to this the fact that I am also an avid player of Mario Kart Wii and Mario Kart 8 then you see how the move back multiple generations into a game that was ‘2.5D’was incredibly weird.

It was really interesting seeing where a lot of the things in Mario Kart started from. The fact that instead of having the floating boxes of power ups that we all know and love you had glowing floor squares was a bit of a puzzler on my first go around.

The amazing part about Super Mario Kart, however, was just how much of the newer games really trace back to this original formula. Sure, now there more gimmicks, better graphics and more characters, but the fundamentals stand.

Obviously one big improvement is that the feel of the driving is a lot smoother. It’s easy to get used to though; you just have to come up with a different strategy for the ridiculously tight corners. A lot of the tracks have also been upcycled for the newer games anyway so, again, it’s not like you need a lot to get used to them. Apart from the Bowser Castle levels. I still suck at those.

Just another one of those games that forces you to admit that it is sometimes really worthwhile to look backwards.

Good Eatin’: Melting Cheese Raclette Style

 List Item: Try half of the combined 1001 food books

 It has been another busy week when it comes to accumulating foods from the combined lists. One which ended up in the consumption of a lot of cheese and my forgetting to take photos to document some other list items because the list is still so vast that it is hard to memorize everything.

Food item: Irn-Bru

Before drinking this during a walk around the park I was not entirely sure if I had actually tried Scotland’s second national beverage. One sip and I was instantly taken back to spending time with my paternal grandparents where this would be the drink I was given. I am not entirely sure of what the flavour of Irn-Bru is… I’m just sure it doesn’t occur in nature.

Food item: Cantaloupe Melon

Okay… so I was not aware that Charentais melons are a type of cantaloupe. Pity, because having a straight up cantaloupe is nowhere nowhere near as sweet and delicious.

Food item: White Chocolate Moose

The white chocolate moose in question (quite cute being served in the little coffee cup) was something I had for free at a meeting venue. I SAY it’s a white chocolate moose because that is what it says on the menu. It tasted like cold vanilla custard. Never a bad thing.

Food item: Spring Onion Pancakes

Friday meant a lunch trip to the local Korean place Asadal where we probably ate a little bit too much. I mean, what is wrong with chunks of warm golden pancake with spring onion and a dipping sauce. Absolutely nothing that’s what. It went well with the Korean barbecue pork that I ate with it… pity I did not go for the bulgogi as I would have had another list item on my hand.

Food item: Pea Shoots and Raclette Du Valais

On Saturday Kay, a friend of myself and my partner, came around and we decided to do something a bit more fancy. As part of it we had to get a very special cheese for it, which was delicious and reminded me of a strange lovechild cheese of gruyere and emmental. Delicious when it was melted onto potatoes and pickles.

The pea shoots were used in a salad I made to go alongside it. It did indeed taste like fresh peas… just a bit leafy. Not too bad.

Food item: Raclette

There is a reason why Raclette is on the list twice is since one book referred to the cheese and the other referred to the method of preparation. Talk about two birds with one stone.

Alongside the cheese and the salad there was bacon, a salt-and-pepper baguette, courgettes, mushrooms, peppers, cold potatoes and strips of beef marinaded in rice wine, brown sugar and soy sauce. All of which were delicious with melted cheese on top.

I mean just LOOK AT IT!

Food item: Crowdie and Gjetost

As we dropped our friend off at London Victoria and came across the International Cheese Shop (cue sound of the heavenly host). So many different international cheese, so little money, so little research on my part so I ended up coming home with two cheeses and come Cashel blue because I bloody loved that cheese.

The one I was really looking forward to trying was the Gjetost. A Norwegian cheese that is boiled so that the milk sugars caramelise in a way similar to dulce de leche. It was so strange to eat since, to begin with, it really tasted like caramel and only then did the cheese taste start to break through which lingered into the aftertaste. I’m still not sure how much this really is cheese, I mean it actually sliced more like fudge.

Finally in this post in the Crowdie – the version I had being a Black Crowdie. This cheese is a rather mild Scottish cheese that seemed to straddle the line between cottage cheese and cream cheese. It was very spreadable with a fresh taste and a slight smell of citrus fruit juice. The peppercorns on the outside did a lot to enhance the flavour… but I did prefer the Crowdie when it was just the cheese on its own.

Progress: 524/933

The Great EU Quest – Denmark

List Item: Visit all EU countries
Progress: 12/28Country: Denmark
Year first visited: 2013

Denmark is the most recent of the EU countries that I have crossed off this list. I have four more to write about, but I just felt like going back to my visit to Denmark. The trip started as a birthday present to my partner where I thought I would treat him to a long weekend away at some point in the year, a few months later we found ourselves booking tickets to Copenhagen.

IMG_0434

Of course we find ourselves on the same day as Copenhagen Pride, meaning I had to keep my eyes out for my great fear: drag queens. I know it’s dumb to have a phobia of drag queens… just think of them as aggressive gay clowns and you might understand why I have run away from them before.

Anyway, my partner really wanted to go and he thought it would make for a good item on my still developing bucket list. Damn him he knows what threads to tug on. So we did a compromise. We would spend the afternoon doing a bit of an explore and head for the Little Mermaid statue.

The Little Mermaid statue is tiny. And we had to wait a solid 20 minutes because of all the tourists climbing up on to the rock and taking pictures of themselves fondling the statue. I was so ready to go into Teacher Beast Mode since there were so many multi-lingual signs telling people to leave the lady alone. Still, I managed to get my snap and we walked back through the Citadel to reach Copenhagen’s downtown to fulfil my end of the bargain.

List item: Attend a Pride event
Progress: Completed

After years of putting it off I finally stayed around long enough at a Pride event to consider myself an attendant. I don’t know if it was because we were surrounded by Danes and Swedes rather than Londoners, but everything felt just that bit more relaxed and (for me) less intimidating.

It was a really good evening of cheesy pop music, a drag queen/unicorn acting as a DJ (they were far enough away from me to not scare me) and a lot of gay men wearing ridiculous outfits. I wouldn’t go as far to say I felt like I belonged, in many ways I still feel isolated from that part of myself, but it’s a thing that I am glad my partner wanted me to do.

The first full day we headed for the Copenhagen Zoo to spend the morning. The fact that it had a polar bear might have helped matters here. It appears that they have one hell of a breeding program in Copenhagen (or there is something in the water) since we saw a lot of baby animals whilst we were there. Anteaters, elephants, brown bears and tigers being the cutest of them all.

We spent longer than we expected in the zoo area, pretty much the whole day, so we headed back to Downtown Copenhagen for a more regular explore. This included a visit to the Amaleinborg Palace where we saw the Danish version of ‘The Changing Of The Guard’. Since we had one more day there was planning to be done.

This was a day where we just kept on walking and walking. I managed to pull my back muscles half way through the day, but there was still so much that I wanted to see that just kept on walking.

We fit in a lot during this day. Climbed to to the top of the Church of our Saviour, the corkscrew church that dominates the skyline which I felt required a visit. The views from up there were just beautiful. I took so many photos from up there and wished that we could have had more time to just stared at the city. Sadly, however, the corkscrew tower is pretty much single file so we were moved on rather quickly.

List item: See a ballet
Progress: Completed

After wandering around the Botanical Gardens (sadly the museum we wanted to hit up was closed for renovations) we headed to Tivoli Gardens for the evening. For a theme park in the middle of a city… you quickly forget that you are in the city.

The fact that we spent the first 45 minutes to an hour in Tivoli watching a ballet of the Steadfast Tin Solider. I swear, Copenhagen just kept on surprising us.

It was a magical evening, even though we didn’t go on any rides. I completely forgot my back pain, although you could tell by my hobbling that something was not quite right.

I hope to return to Copenhagen one day, there was a lot we didn’t get a chance to see. As is the way with long weekends. Maybe next time…

Acclaimed Albums – The Strokes and Franz Ferdinand

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 75/250

MI0002485729
Title: Is This It
Artist: The Strokes
Year: 
2001
Position:
#41
Title: Franz Ferdinand
Artist: Franz Ferdinand
Year: 2004
Position: #192

A welcome return to albums that are not only more recent but also ones that I already knew and liked.

I am aware I have not done an album pair by unrelated artists for a while. This actually started with me making initial notes on Is This It and how I first started listening to it. The thing is, that these two albums are tied together in terms of my music listening history so I figured why not speed things up and do them both together.

So yes,  with all things ‘non-pop’ music I was late to the party with Is This It. I was 11 when it was released and, to put this into a personal context, this was the year Steps broke my heart by splitting up. Oh dear.

Franz Ferdinand, on the other hand, I was very much there with them at the time. I was 14 and I had started to look further afield than just pop for my listening. The likes of Garbage, Coldplay and Massive Attack had begun to be played alongside my more regular music. So I decided that I would give Franz Ferdinand after they had won the Mercury Prize. It also helped that a guy at school that I had a major crush on kept talking about this album… so I listened to it so we would have something to talk about (we never did and he turned out to be a bit of a dick, so no harm no foul there).

Despite the fact that we never actually talked about it Franz Ferdinand ended up being one of those gateway albums that further widened my musical tastes. ‘Come on Home’ remains one of my favourite songs, ranking #73 on the list I made at the end of last year for favourite songs from the last 15 years. I still have some memories playing Singstar and us all taking it in turns singing ‘Take Me Out’ .

So yes, 3 years later I was in my first year of university and after not having played Franz Ferdinand for a while I started to to listen to it again and start listening to it again. This started to get me back into more rocky music where folk and more alternative music had started to take hold.

So yes, I started listening to Is This It and I have been revisiting it every now and then ever since. Usually a few months before or after a White Stripes run. To be honest, after my first listen to Is This It the sudden emergence of music made by skinny guys with guitars made SO much sense. Poor Alice Deejay probably never saw that coming.

XL Popcorn: Olympia

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 438/1007Title: Olympia 1. Teil — Fest der Völker (Festival of Nations) and Olympia 2. Teil — Fest der Schönheit (Festival of Beauty)
Director: Leni Riefenstahl
Year: 1938
Country: Germany

Is it possible to develop a crush on a gold medal winning American pole vaulter from the 1936 Berlin Olympics? No? Alright then.

On the 1001 Movies list there are three documentary films depicting the Olympic Games. There is the 1965 film Tokyo Olympiad which focuses on the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and then the two Olympia films depicting the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Whilst I will get to the Japanese one at some point I couldn’t turn down the chance of seeing what what the fuss is about Olympia.

I enjoy reading about film history and Leni Riefenstahl is one of those directors where it is hard not to be fascinated. There are so many questions I would like to ask about her, but mainly this one: “Would we remember her if her legacy wasn’t so closely linked to the Nazi Party?”.

I have now watched her three main films, the two Olympia movies and Triumph of the Willand I still have this question as well as another one: when does promotion become propaganda? With Triumph of the Will it is pretty obvious how this is propaganda, not so much with Olympia. Why? Because I don’t see how a sports documentary film that spends more time on Jesse Owens, Olympic sailing or the very attractive pole vaulter Earle Meadows than it does on Nazi officials could really be propaganda based.

Here’s the thing, I don’t really enjoy watching sport on the television. I was very much prepared to be surfing the web and checking in on this documentary as a half-watch. I mean, these Olympics happened nearly 80 years ago, it’s not like you can feel tense watching it… and yet you do. In these short depictions of events you automatically start to root for people. In the women’s high jump competition I was actually saddened when the British athlete didn’t win gold. What the actual hell!?

Also of interest was the opening ceremony where apart from Germany I saw only three other nations giving the ‘salute’: Austria (obviously), Italy (makes sense) and France (what the what!?).

Riefenstahl spends a sizeable amount of the opening minutes of both movies in a form of worship of the human body in both clothed and unclothed forms. It’s very classical and ethereal, but the really interesting parts is the sport itself. The fact that, in order to shoot Olympia, she came up with a bunch of techniques in order to best showcase the different sports, things that we use to this day.

Her love of the human form and her knowledge of how certain camera angles can work during her propaganda work heavily influenced the framing of nearly every shot. Under her direction there are few Olympic athletes that escape from looking like heroes. Some get more treatment then others, but obviously she focuses mainly on the winners of the events. That does mean the German athletes get more limelight, but they did top the medal table…

In the end, this is always going to be one of those films that inspires differing opinions. It really depends how readily you can remove politics from what is, undoubtedly, a ground-breaking piece of sports journalism.