Monthly Archives: February 2016

Good Eatin’: I’ve Eaten Thumper

List Item: Try half of the combined 1001 food books

I know it probably isn’t ‘healthy’ to be able to look at your food, think of them as cartoon characters and STILL be able to eat them.  However, that’s where I am with the titular meal from today’s post. It stems from the thought of: ‘I’ve eaten Bambi, I am about to eat Thumper… I wonder what Flower would taste like’. Whatever gets me through the day I guess.

Food items: Rabbit in Garlic and Rosemary, Wild Rice

Rabbit in Iceland? What is it with these budget supermarkets now offering leftfield meats. Not knocking it, thanks to Iceland I now have grouse and lobster in my freezer for future list cookery. For now let’s stick with the rabbit for now.

I went with this because it is the easiest rabbit recipe in the list – so it would be good to learn how to cook rabbit to. What I didn’t realise was how much rabbit is like a cross between pork and turkey. If I knew this then I would have tried to find rabbit a lot sooner. I can see why garlic and rosemary would be a good accompaniment to this.

I served the rabbit with some of the leftover winter melon (cooked with lemon and basil) and instant rice that contained wild rice. I enjoyed picking out the wild rice from its surroundings. Just because of texture and colour, nothing to do with any real difference in taste.

Food items: Alphonso Mango, Quark, Peaches

It is a bit silly that something as common as peaches would be on a food list. Then again, I love peaches so why not eh? I combined these three ingredients for dessert after the rabbit, and I have to say it was glorious.

If you have a Tesco near you, get the Alphonso Mango coulis, vanilla quark and tinned peaches and just combine them in a bowl. Together they make the perfect mix of sweet and creamy. The mix of textures makes for a really comforting dessert. Something that, if I had fancy glassware, would be good to serve people for dinner. Light on the coulis though.

Food item: Flapjack

Okay, so this is where we get into the mop up of smaller items within the week. Flapjacks? I love them, and it confuses me that Americans use this as another term for pancakes. A flapjack will always be oats, raisins, butter and a lot of syrup/honey/both. The ones that my work produces are gorgeous, a bit too sweet, but gorgeous.

Food item: Silken bean curd

This was from a trip to Wagamamas. I used to love this restaurant, but I do feel that it has started to go a bit downhill. Still, they have the ability to deep fry silken tofu whilst I still have trouble preparing it without the general splotchy mess that ensues. I do prefer it less deep-fried usually so I can appreciate the subtlety.

Food item: Camembert

There is also a more specific type of Camembert on the original food list, but I am able to go for a more generic one for now. I know that Camembert from Normandy is superior to what this cheaper one from Morrisons. It was nice enough with the hedgehog loaf and some salami. Just not as strong as I like.

Food item: Tapioca Pudding

Almost forgot about this one. I bought four tins of Ambrosia dessert a long time back. Maybe even before adopting the second food list. What do I find? Tapioca pudding! Creamy with burstable tapioca pearls. I can see why it is used in bubble tea now.

Food item: Coffee and Walnut Cake

I love free food. I especially love free food that comes from a food list. Thanks to Shan at work for baking this. It was gorgeous, moist (or fuktig in Norwegian as I recently learned) and did not taste too coffee for my tastes.

Progress: 686/933

Oscar Bait – Million Dollar Baby

List Item: Watch all Best Picture Winners (to date)
Progress: 81/88Title: Million Dollar Baby
Director: Clint Eastwood
Year: 2004
Country: USA

As of now, the most recent winner of the Best Picture trophy at the Academy Awards is Terms of Endearment. It has been a long time coming, but finally I have gotten around to watching Million Dollar Baby. What put me off? The name.

I know it sounds like a pathetic reason, but you have to admit that as film names go it is pretty damned terrible. Also, when I was checking out the synopses online nothing really grabbed me – and this is with me actually knowing the twist in the end. Yes, thank you so much people I used to take the train to school with for ruining that emotional impact for me.

The twist is quite a known twist, but I hate people who reveal twists – so I won’t here. Needless to say, even though I knew what was coming there I was still able to feel for the characters in the scene.

With all this background I went into Million Dollar Baby expecting a ‘worthy’ Oscar bait film that would piss me off. The fact that it has Clint Eastwood everywhere did not help this assertion – nowadays I swear he just plays shades of the same grumpy, yet misunderstood, man that most people loved in Gran Torino. I don’t get that film, I just don’t.

What I DID get was how great Hilary Swank was in the titular (maybe) role of boxer Maggie Fitzpatrick. As an actress she had to do a lot in this role, including having to train up her body and gain muscle whilst being sick. It’s not one of the biggest transformations in cinema history, but that’s a lot of dedication.

I know that I am going to sound like a philistine here… but I preferred this film to Raging Bull. I mean, I find it hard to watch a film that I can’t sympathise with (my same problem with The Wrestler) so Million Dollar Baby has that stitched up.

My big question, however, is whether Million Dollar Baby deserved the award. Probably not. Hotel Rwanda and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind would be a lot higher on my list.

Good Eatin’: I Went A Bit Mad Today

List Item: Try half of the combined 1001 food books

Right, so I am SO keen to hit number 700 whilst in Japan that I might have gone a bit crazy on this Saturday in September. It might have helped that I had a good friend with me to spur me on and translate the Mandarin in my favourite Chinese supermarket. Also, there was a Wholefoods and a dim sum restaurant involved. I am not sorry. Broke, but not sorry.

Food items: Congee, Pai Dan, Thousand-Year-Old Egg

Right, so I never got this before since whenever I see the name I instantly have the image of a conger eel come into my brain… and they are scary and violent bastards. Congee is nothing like a conger eel. In fact, this gloopy rice soup was really nice. I liked the way that it took on the flavour of whatever spices were found at the bottom (in this case ginger).

As for the egg (since this is the same thing with two different names) it was really jellyfied and a rather off-putting colour. Tasted fine though.

Food items: Xiao Lon Bao and Whelks

On the menu these dumplings were listed as Shanghai dumplings. I have had these a lot of times before, but after a bit of Chinese character matching I know I have had these. Compared to other dumplings I have had the pastry was just that bit thicker. Also, something I found weird, was that due to the steaming a decent amount of fat(?) came out when you broke the pastry. The vinegar dipping sauce was nice.

Since this is the place I had tripe in, I figured why not go for the whelks in satay sauce? They were really nice! They had the taste and consistency of baby octopus, just without the head that falls off in your mouth.

Food items: Espresso and Simit

I am not a coffee drinker. At all. Yet, I liked the espresso. I mean, yes is was a bit bitter. However, after a while I was able to discern some sweetness in the aftertaste and it went down incredibly smoothly. I did not, however, get the rush I expected. Maybe years of Pepsi addiction have raised my caffeine tolerance to ridiculous levels.

I had never heard of simit (or Turkish bagels) until today. Apparently this is a new chain to London? All I can say is, yes please. I got a plain one and spread some peanut butter onto it. To be fair, it is one of those things that would probably be good with any filling. It’s like a bagel crossed with a pretzel. Very happy this could be on the rise.

Food items: Black Cod, Saiko Miso and Chilean Sea Bass

With the black cod and saiko miso there was a sweetness and sharpness that I imagine was down to the miso-based marinade. The mirin, that I am assuming was used, probably leant the sweetness. The fish itself was  juicy, fatty and flaky. In places it was a bit more jellylike… which might mean that I undercooked it. One reason this marinade worked so well is because it cuts through the fattiness of the fish so well and balances out the taste.

The Chilean sea bass (or Patagonian Toothfish), on the other hand, had a  very different texture to the black cod. On the whole it was a bit drier, to the point where I can imagine it being really good in a fish pie. There was some natural sweetness to it too, one that meant that this was good to eat without ANY extra flavouring.

Food items: Winter Melon, Asian Aubergine, Petai Beans, Enokitake and (not pictured) Durian

Let’s start with the durian. I have no picture because it stank, I can actually see why the Chinese supermarket has a bit of a weird smell – there are people preparing durian meat in the back. The only thing I can compare durian to is cheese. The pungent smell a is complete curveball since the fruit is creamy and has a subtle taste. It didn’t have a great after taste though.

The asian aubergine? Well, it was very much like a standard Mediterranean aubergine just not as rubbery. Plus, it did not soak up oil like a sponge or brown the moment I cut it with a metal knife.

The petai bean was nutty, but, like the durian, pungent. I can only describe the taste as nut mixed with garlic acid. In small doses they were nice, but they did make the tongue tingle a lot. I had to properly brush my tongue before that sensation went away.

This leaves me with my two favourites of this bunch of vegetables. Enoki mushrooms and winter melon. I love enoki mushrooms, they are easily one of my favourite mushrooms, and that is not because they look like a miniature citadel when clustered together or weird alien penises when on their own. These are really something to have in a soup or raw, they lose their slight give and some of their flavour disappears. A pity, since the flavour is on the sweeter end of the mushroom spectrum.

One of my finds of the day was winter melon. A curious case of a fruit (because this is actually a melon) that is cooked as if it was a vegetable. If you can think of cucumber without the irony taste and cross that with the texture of a watermelon you kinda have it. When I stir-fried it there was an almost a melting texture to it, and then there were some pieces that were crisp and fresh. Might have to get more of this soon, it was probably the cheapest thing I bought today other than the coffee and the simit.

Progress: 676/933

Oscar Bait – Grand Hotel

List Item: Watch all Best Picture Winners (to date)
Progress: 80/88Title: Grand Hotel
Director: Edmund Goulding
Year: 1932
Country: USA

It’s February, which means that it is well and truly Oscar season. After Grand Hotel there are eight films to go, plus whatever carries home the title in a few weeks time. So, 2016 should be the year where I am able to cross this off of my list. The first of the ‘in progress’ items to be completely crossed off, kinda cool.

Grand Hotel is one of those films that, when Sporcle does a Oscar winner quiz, people tend to leave out. It’s probably not as unknown as Cavalcadebut it is still considered an Oscar deep cut.

The thing is, it really shouldn’t be. I mean sure, it is not a classic like Gone With The Wind, Casablanca or The Godfather, but it is a good romp. And yes, I think romp is the word that best describes my relationship with this movie.

The setting of this movie is in the Grand Hotel, Berlin. It is a very expensive and decadent hotel, which has high-flying businessmen, members of the aristocracy and world-famous entertainers staying. With that last one I am not making reference to Hollywood royalty Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford who were starring in this film.

I have seen Grand Hotel referenced as being similar to Gosford Park in the way it is able to start out the film with multiple vignettes that all marry up in the end to form a brilliant climax. I would agree with this completely. I was amazed at how well this film knitted all the characters together at the end.

I was equally surprised at how fast-paced the film was. At two hours long they were able to pack a lot in. Whatever you think is going to happen, about fifteen minutes later you are one step further along in the story.

One thing I have to say, however, is just how bad I felt for Greta Garbo’s ballerina at the end. Granted, she is a bit high-maintenance and a primadonna, but oh my god I don’t want to know how she reacted an hour after the film ends. Everyone else? I would be remiss to say that it would be how I would have expected. A nice mixture of happy and sad… but poor ballerina.

1001 Songs – 1941 – 1946

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

Gloomy Sunday – Billie Holiday (1941)

Watchers of QI will know this song as being associated with radio listeners committing suicide. I know it’s dumb, but I did gird my loins in case of severe depression. It is always great when a song has such a dark urban myth attached to it. The song itself, whilst it is undoubtedly melancholy, did not make me want to slit my wrists. Her delivery is, as always, emotionally evocative. Much more so due to the lyrics shading suicide.

Guantanamera – Joseito Fernandez (1941)

A nice respite in the Billie Holiday sandwich of depression. ‘Guantanamera’ feels a lot more cheerful for two reasons. Cuban melodies are fairly upbeat even when dealing with tragedy. Also, I have no idea what he is singing. I just know that he keeps using a feminine verison of Guantanamo which feels weird considering what Gitmo is.

God Bless The Child – Billie Holiday (1941)

Oh god, this has been ruined for me by the Simpsons Sing The Blues album. Nowhere near as mournful as ‘Strange Fruit’ or ‘Gloomy Sunday’ – maybe because this is a song that Billie Holiday wrote herself. One thing I am very aware of is how clear her voice is. As someone who listens to Lady In Satin every now and then (‘Violet for Your Furs’ being a favourite’) it is great to be able to hear how her voice was before the drugs and the drink got to it. Like a mournful siren.

Stormy Weather – Lena Horne (1943)

Where Billie Holiday is mournful in her songs that address dissapointment, Lena Horne is petulant. ‘Stormy Weather’ is about how life (and men) have dissapointed the singer. Lena is angry at her disspointment and at the world that has caused her to feel this way. The sweeping strings in the background perfectly lift her soaring vocal delivery. It’s a very simply arranged song, but Lena Horne is able to easily carry it off with a whole lot of confidence.

Rum and Coca-Cola – Lord Invader (1943)

Just noticed that we have skipped over 1942. This is a very dark song, not that you would know it until you look at the lyrics. It’s a song about how the US soldiers went over to Triniad and the writer feels that they were invading the society (the title referring to the drinks that US soldiers were drinking). It also makes a lot of references to the US soldiers sleeping with local women. On the shallow level, the song is all over the place and can be difficult to follow. On a deeper level, it’s a historical document.

This Land Is Your Land – Woody Guthrie (1944)

A very patriotic and a very American song here. I have never really liked this song for the way some people have been able to re-appropriate it against immigration along the US-Mexico border. In a more innocent world it would be nice enough, it’s just some people have been able to ruin it.

Lili Marleen – Marlene Dietrich (1945)

I love Marlene Dietrich in films – her deep and smoky delivery makes for interesting listening. It’s a very German cabaret type of voice (like Ute Lemper in the modern day). I don’t know German – but I know it is a rather beautiful sounding German love song. The fact that this version was used by the Allies in World War Two as a way to demoralise German soldiers (Marlene Dietrich apparently being very on board with this) makes this song a weird stroke of genius.

(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66 – The Nat King Cole Trio (1946)

I am so used to Nat King Cole being a voice of Christmas songs, so it is weird to hear him sounding so youthful. It’s a crossover song between pop and rhythym and blues – and if it was released after Bill Haley came onto the scene this would have sounded VERY different.

Al gurugu – La Nina de los peines (1946)

A good example of why I went for this list instead of Acclaimed Music. This is a flamenco song that would not have appeared on a critics top list, but is interesting to listen to because it is a very different type of song. Yes, this is a latin off shoot, but the foot stomping in the background keeping the beat in the place of drums makes a lot more sense. She was very important in the flamenco scene – just not many people are aware of that scene.

La vie en rose – Edith Piaf (1946)

One of the most famous songs ever to come out of France. It’s a beautiful song where you can just phase out of whatever you are doing and take you along a journey with it. I just love it. Hard to know what else to say.

La mer – Charles Trenet (1946)

I had no idea that ‘Beyond The Sea’ was based on a French song! Well, you learn something new everyday. I quite like the English version and, because it is what I am used to, I do prefer it. There is something about listening to the melody with the original (and unrelated) French lyrics. My one issue? When the backing singers join at the end of ‘La Mer’, it detracts from the simplicity of it.

Progress: 31/1021

Acclaimed Albums – Post and Homogenic by Björk

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 89/250

Title: Post
Artist: Björk
Year: 1995
Title: Homogenic
Artist: Björk
Year: 1997
Position: #220

When I started doing this blog nearly 2 years ago there was only one Björk album on the Acclaimed Albums list – Debut. Whilst I love that album, it would probably only rank as #5 if I were to rank all of her albums. Here we are two updates of the list later and now the Björk albums I would rank as #2 and #4 have made an entrance.

For the record this is my ranking:

  1. Vespertine
  2. Homogenic
  3. Vulnicura
  4. Post
  5. Debut
  6. Medulla
  7. Biophilia
  8. Volta

Anyway, here we are with Post and Homogenic. The albums where Björk began to shed a lot of the fun artifice that you can see on Debut and we start to see her inner self. Her greatest strength, other than her lateral thinking leading to musical innnovation, is her remorseless honesty. Especially, when she is looking to the hidden parts of herself and the darker side of love.

It is on these albums where Björk has housed some of her greatest songs.

When I started listening to her over a decade ago it was Homogenic’s ‘Bachelorette’ that one of the first to really grab me. It’s a song that requires stellar headphones so you can just hear absolutely everything. Her lyrics are cryptic, the strings are overbearing and the layers of the beats are mesmerizing. In my opinion, this song is her at her absolute peak in terms of vocal delivery (just listen to her on this) and production. To me, it is faultless.

Homogenic also houses ‘Pluto’, one of those songs that took a crowbar to my musical taste and opened it wide up. I had never heard anything quite like it with the harshness of the electronics and all of her screaming. It ranks as one of my favourite songs ever and (along with ‘Army of Me’) is a song that I take relish in playing loud when I am pissed off. It is rage and apocalypse. It also provides me with one of my favourite live music memories since I saw her perform it on the Volta tour with a dancing brass band.

After ‘Pluto’ is the beautifully subtle ‘All Is Full of Love’. With ‘Pluto’ comes destruction, with ‘All Is Full Of Love’ comes the rebirth. Never have I ever seen two so diametrically different songs used so perfectly on an album. Now, for me, the definitive version of ‘All Is Full Of Love’ is the version on the Vespertine Live album. It works so well as a bridge between those two albums since it is all about that other side of her that is only seen on Vespertine.

Other astonishing songs on Homogenic include ‘Unravel’, ‘Hunter’ and ‘Jóga’. I could go on for ages about Homogenic, but there is also Post to look at here.

My issue with Post is that whilst it is an amazing album, it did give us ‘It’s All So Quiet’. One of those incredibly ill-fated moves that, whilst it did bring her a lot of fame, unfairly represented her to a lot of people.

It was great in some ways though – the main one being ‘Hyper-Ballad’. Who else could create a song about wanting to do something destructive so that you can be all sweetness and light for your partner. Also, who would do this to the backdrop of classical music remixed with electronic beats.

Other highlights on Post includes the slightly bat-shit ‘I Miss You’, which has an equally bat-shit music video, ‘Isobel’ and the industrial stomper ‘Enjoy’.

Sight Seein’ – Canterbury Cathedral

It is dangerous for me to buy books like this. The honest fact is that there are a number of these ‘top list’ kinda books that I really want to add to my bucket list. I know that I am going to add so many things that would be impossible for one person to do. But that’s okay. Why not aim for a truly astonishing life with broad experiences only to have a great one?

With this list, I am under no illusions that I have no chance of being able to visit all 500. I mean, when I look at this list there are a number of places where I have no real drive to visit. The Camp Nou stadium for instance. I have no real urge to visit a football stadium.

By inserting this Travelist list I am going to use this as an opportunity to cross off a number of items from my general bucket list including:

List items: Visit Disney World in Florida, the Great Barrier Reef, Vatican City, Uffizi Gallery, Niagara Falls, “Vesuvius and it’s victims” and the Colosseum,
Progress: Completed

Originally the idea was that I would need to pad this blog out in order to do two posts a week, so I would write these up separately. Little did I know that I would become so list crazy.

Anyway, let’s just start on this next one with a trip to Canterbury. Utter coincidence that is happened this way, but a happy one to say the least.

List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 43/100

Sight: Canterbury Cathedral
Location: Canterbury, England
Position: #219

How can I have lived in Kent pretty much all my life and have not visited Canterbury? Well, I rectified this over the August bank holiday and enjoyed the sites of Canterbury and its Gothic cathedral.

One thing that I never really thought about was how I live to close to the central church of a religion. It still does not make sense to me why Canterbury, of all places, would feature the central church of a religion.

In terms of pure church beauty I would say that York Minster is a far more impressive place, which is probably why it is placed higher on the Lonely Planet list. For history, however, there is a lot more bloody history here that I am aware of. Of course, I am referring to the assassination/murder of Thomas Becket.

I am a real sucker for history, and for churches. I am lucky to have seen some of the most beautiful ones in the world and I look forward to see many more in the future.

List Item: Try half of the combined 1001 food books

Food items: Green Tea and Soft-Boiled Eggs with Soldiers

Of course, whilst I was in Canterbury there was a chance to find some other list things. In fact I was able to get two (rather easy) ones as part of breakfast, despite the fact that we were attacked by wasps for most of the breakfast.

To be honest, the ‘dippy eggs and soldiers’ was not the best soft boiled egg I have ever had, but it’s one of those things that I have had a lot as a child so I figure I might as well count it now.

Food items: Microgreen and Welsh Rarebit

After the visit to the Cathedral it was time for tea and a visit to Tiny Tim’s. Now, I order the rarebit thinking that I didn’t need to eat anything too big – and then I got this massive plate of gorgeous thick cut granary bread smothered in a gorgeous cheese and mustard sauce.

The watercress on top, apparently, gets me a check off the original 1001 Foods list. Not exactly a headliner – unlike the sauce which was so incredibly gorgeous.

Progress: 661/933