Good Eatin’ – Double Dates and Wild Strawberries

I have been on the hunt for pheasant eggs in the past week. With it currently being June I know that pheasant eggs are coming to the end of their season. I will cover the search when I actually eat the blasted things, but for today’s post I would like to thank Harrod’s for having food that I didn’t think I would find so easily.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You DieFood items: Khalasah Dates and Barhi Dates

Starting with the Khalasah dates on the left – these are dates that I had resigned myself to never finding. The book made it sound like these were rarely exported from the Middle East, so finding them at Qatari-owned Harrods actually makes a lot of sense.

When eating the Khalasah dates I followed the advice from the book by letting the date slowly melt away in my mouth rather than just chewing it up. I can really see why you would want to do this. These dates really taste like a dark, spiced honey. There are hints of toffee to it as well.

These hints are nothing compared the taste of the Barhi dates.  For a date this tasted surprisingly like caramel. If it wasn’t for the soft fibrous texture it would be very easy to mistake what I was eating as melted muscovado sugar. I think I prefer these ones over the Khalasah dates… which is good for me as the Barhi dates are cheaper.

My main issues with dates has historically been that I find them too sweet and sticky, this has not been the case with either of the dates. The Barhi dates were sweeter than the Khalasah dates, but neither were as sweet as those you tend to find in the supermarkets. I would be included to eat more dates if they were like this.

Food item: Alpine Strawberry

Oh my God I spent £14 on 100g of strawberries. I swear you can buy street drugs for less than this. Right? You know what I have no idea. But at least I can understand the high price for these. These fruit that are incredibly perishable and, by the looks of the box,  foraged.

So I think you can get how I would jump at the chance at some alpine strawberries. These have other names such as wild strawberries or fraises des bois (literally strawberries of the woods) and was one of the earliest cultivated strawberries. However, with the rise of the garden strawberry.

Considering the difference in size and  ease of cultivation I can see how these fell out of use, but it’s a real shame. Think of the flavour of a strawberry. Magnify it, make it slightly more sour and that’s what you have with the alpine strawberry. In terms of texture these are ridiculously soft with the many seeds adding a nice crunch.

Were they worth the £14 when the two bags of dates came to £7? Probably not, but at least I can say I am getting that much closer to the next landmark number.

Progress: 661/751

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Acclaimed Albums – My Generation by The Who

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 135/250Title: My Generation
Artist: The Who
Year: 1965
Position: #239

I have been skirting around doing My Generation for a long time because of its precarious placement in the lower end of the list. However, with my most recent post of the 1001 songs list reaching 1969 it’s become a bit odd having some of these older albums still to do, especially those that still so highly thought of.

When I started listening to My Generation I found it shocking that this was The Who’s first album. If you listen back to the debut releases of The Beatles, Elvis Presley and The Rolling Stones you find albums that are littered with covers and only offer a hint of what was to come.

Whilst My Generation does feature some covers, they feel like they are a more cohesive part of the album that something stuck on there either at the last minute or to pander to the crowd. In fact the covers are interesting in themselves as they take on R&B songs from 10 years previous, which are then updated to fit in on the album.

Well I say fit in. As cohesive as this album is The Who still veer between genres. There are influences from R&B and classic rock and roll, as you would expect, but rather than just playing to those My Generation is taking these genres forward.

Tracks like ‘My Generation’ and ‘The Kids Are Alright’ are prime examples of the new rock genres that were starting to develop – genres that would properly evolve into hard rock, punk rock and metal. These aren’t quite yet at the proto-punk levels of music that comes out soon afterwards, but these are steps in the same direction.

Whilst not as prevalent on all songs, there are hints of this same purposeful roughness throughout the album. There are discordant harmonies, raging drums and (not quite, but almost) shredding guitars. This really does feel like a band brimming with confidence – and this album was a rush job to capitalise on successful singles.

Maybe the fact that this was a rush job ultimately helped the album out. The great thing about this album overall is that it feels natural and not overthought. Overthinking can help with some albums (otherwise we wouldn’t have beautifully produced tracks like ‘God Only Knows’ and ‘Eleanor Rigby’ – but sometimes overthinking ends up giving us ‘Chelsea Girls’. Gross.

Graphic Content – Squeak the Mouse

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
33/501Title: Squeak the Mouse
Creator: Massimo Mattioli
Year: 1980-1992
Country: Italy

Of all the comics in the list this is the one that grabbed my husbands interest. Okay sure, I mean how many comics do you come across that inspired Itchy and Scratchy?

Squeak the Mouse is one of those comics that you do not want to be reading on the train to work. When we first looked this up it was pitched as a violent take on Tom and Jerry as a comic. With that, I am on board. I was similarly on board with the idea of the cat managing to kill the mouse, only for the mouse to come back as a zombie and kill a bunch of other cats.

But then there’s the cat and mouse penises and vaginas. That is not something I expected. I especially did not expect the orgy sequences. It feels as graphic (or possibly even more graphic) than Fritz the Catwhich is not something I thought I would be saying about another comic featuring animals.

At only two volumes Squeak the Mouse is an interesting read. Especially if you always felt sorry for Tom not being able to catch Jerry – or like weird cartoon violence. Just make sure you do it at home because you will get weird looks on the train as you quickly flick through parts featuring mouse orgies…

Graphic Content – Tomorrow’s Joe

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
Progress:
32/501Title: Tomorrow’s Joe (Ashita No Joe)
Creator: Ikki Kajiwara and Tetsuya Chiba
Year: 1968-1973
Country: Japan

From what I’ve read Tomorrow’s Joe was an early example of a widely serialised manga that touched a real nerve with a large section of society in Japan. The release of this series coincided with an increase in prosperity following their defeat in World War II, so a number of readers began to sympathise with the story of this street orphan’s ascent through boxing.

The central character is Joe – a delinquent kid who bounced from orphanage to orphanage and has a natural ability to box. He has a hatred of authority and generally anyone who tells him what to do and is pretty damned rude. You can probably start to discern that I didn’t like him as a character.

Having recently watched Hajime no Ippo it is astounding how different the characters of Joe and Ippo are. There is only 20 years between the release of these two manga series and yet the type of boxing protagonist is the polar opposite – other than the fact that they are both stories about the ascension of an underdog.

Where Ippo was kind-hearted, shy and a bit goofy, Joe is selfish and naturally violent. Sure the circumstances surrounding both of their upbringings are different, but it’s not as if Ippo cane from privileged stock.

The other stark-contrast is that where Ippo is eager to learn and never stops practicing, Joe is initially work-shy and has to be tricked into learning how to harness his potential. I say initially… as eventually he starts to take it seriously.

Boxing becomes something other than a vendetta against one of his former prison inmates (oh did I mention Joe ended up in prison?). However by this point my interest in the manga started to wain. I had hit my minimum read and I was glad to be giving this up. When I dislike a protagonist that is pretty much it for me and Tomorrow’s Joe just never struck a chord with me. Maybe I’ll get it more when I watch the anime, but for now I am happy to stop reading this.

I now only have a few titles left on both the manga and anime list. Since it is the hub’s choice on which comic to read next I have no idea what to expect… but I know that I will be soon experiencing JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure when it is my choice again.

Good Eatin’ – Paasiaisleipa and Cleaning Out The Cupboards

I have a whiteboard in my kitchen above the bin. It’s a useful thing for keeping track for future grocery shops and to remind me of the list foods that I have lying in weight in the cupboards.

With this post I have been able to clear my list for the first time in over a year. I guess this means that I am going to have to up my hunting game if I am to continue ticking things off. That, or win the lottery so I can afford to buy myself some beluga caviar or fly out to Hong Kong for the sake of seasonal Yellow Oil Crab.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You DieFood item: Paasiaisleipa

Before I get into the last items from the cupboard let’s take a moment to appreciate the beautiful spiral of this loaf of Finnish Easter bread. I wasn’t able to find any of this on my jaunt to Helsinki (mainly because it wasn’t Easter) so I resorted to making it on my own.

There are a lot of recipes for paasiaisleipa out there on the internet. As with all things Easter bread there are a number of different ways that this can be made. I ended up opting for a recipe by The Schizo Chef which helped to create a very rich fruit loaf with the spicing of a British fruitcake and the richness of brioche.

One of the hazards of baking these things myself is that I know it will probably be inferior to one made by a proper baker. For example, my one definitely turned out a bit more doughy than the one in the recipe, but it was still a good loaf. If it wasn’t for the fact that it took most of a morning to make I’d give it another shot.

Still, given the success of this and the Torta Di Castagne I think there are a few more baked items from this food list that I could homebrew. So if anyone has a recipe for Irish potato apple cake…

Food items: Sheto and Hemp Oil

Right so here are the last two things from the cupboard. The sheto comes from the box of Afro-Caribbean foodstuffs that I bought just before Christmas (which is a weird word to type when I am watching an episode of Fringe where that is a codeword) and the hemp oil is from a new grocery store that recently opened up around the corner.

Sheto is very much on the same level of flavour as fish sauce and terasi – as in it’s made as the result of fermenting seafood. The point of difference with sheto is the addition of chile pepper. It creates a heat that is rather remarkable, even with the smallest amount. So that’s heat and the taste of fermented prawns. Went well with a spot of mayonnaise and a mushroom burger.

The hemp oil was used to dress a salad to go with the mushroom burgers. The oil itself gave a flavour to the salad leaves which was somewhere between nutty and grassy. I know this can be used in stir-fries and such so this might be an oil worth experimenting with. Unlike the red palm oil. That was disgusting.

Progress: 658/751

1001 Songs – 1969: Part One

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

My Way – Frank Sinatra

For many legendary artists there are songs that come to define them. Aretha has ‘Respect‘, ABBA has ‘Dancing Queen’, Nirvana has ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit‘ and Frank Sinatra has ‘My Way’.

This is very much US crooning through the lens of the French chanson. Few American male singers of note have had the voice and range to do justice to this song about looking back on a life lived. It’s not about necessarily having a good life, but about having a life on your own terms. It’s a defiant and somewhat remorseful song that should only be attempted by singers in the final or penultimate act of their life.

When I hear Sinatra sing it I imagine an abusive father being kicked out of the house and trying to show some semblance of pride. I can imaging the Denzel Washington character in Fences being a huge fan of this song.

I guess what I am trying to say is… if this was sung by someone who was less of a piece of work than Frank Sinatra I might be more on board with this despite the fact that the production is so overblown. But I’m not.

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face – Roberta Flack

So this was recorded and first released by Roberta Flack in 1969 and ended up winning her Grammys in 1972. It’s weird how the Grammys work. Then again – Lemonade.

As is obvious from the title, this is a love song. Interestingly it is a song written by Ewan MacColl for the woman he would later marry… who would also be his third and final wife. So that’s kinda sweet.

Roberta Flack clearly has a big set of pipes, but manages to show remarkable restraint when delivering the song. It comes out every now and then, but she keeps a lid on it for over five minutes. Not going to say that I didn’t get a bit bored during this though. It could have been cut for time.

I’m Just a Prisoner (of Your Good Lovin’) – Candi Staton

Probably better known for the immortal singles ‘You Got the Love’ and ‘Young Hearts, Run Free’ we are at the first of Candi Staton’s three entries on this list. All three songs are incredibly different with ‘I’m Just A Prisoner’ being an example of soul done well.

There’s a rasp to her voice that gives her that extra bit of personality compared to other singers of this era – although we won’t see that rasp in full force until her later songs. I look forward to reaching 1976.

She Moves Through the Fair – Fairport Convention

Here we are back in blighty and we have an early example of electric folk. This particular song is a rather traditional Irish folk song that is beautifully sung by lead vocalist Sandy Denny.

It’s an understated affair that brings in influences like Van Morrison and Simon and Garfunkel to update traditional songs to present day using contemporary instruments and arrangements. As music goes it isn’t exactly revolutionary, but it shows just how these influences can separate off.

Many Rivers to Cross – Jimmy Cliff

Okay this selection of songs is a rather downplayed bunch. We’re crossing many genre borders and that’s not something that could have been done when starting off on this list.

According to Wikipedia this is a reggae/gospel ballad – more emphasis on the gospel thanks to that electric organ in the background. For some reason I am getting a massive hint of ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ which would place this song more into the soul category… which makes a lot more sense than reggae.

I guess that thanks to all these different genres sprouting the ability to section them off really is starting to get harder. Although, I would be hard-pressed to call this reggae.

In the Ghetto – Elvis Presley

Thank you South Park for ruining this song. I listen to this and all I can think of is Eric Cartman singing this about Kenny’s family.

Then again, this is an incredibly overdone song with it’s ghostly backing vocals and Elvis’s affected emotion. The lyrics are fascinating to listen to and, honestly, I wish this had retained the original title of ‘The Vicious Circle’. It’s all about the vicious cycle of poverty and how there are many that cannot escape it. All a bit rich when sung by Elvis Presley who didn’t want to do a political song.

It’s also worth noting that in 2007 Lisa-Marie Presley did this song as a posthumous duet with her father…

Oh Well, Parts 1 & 2 – Fleetwood Mac

So this is the first song in a good while that’s mostly instrumental. Part 1 (which is the first 2 minutes of this 9 minute song) features vocials and is more inkeeping with the rock music of the time, but the rest is more classical.

You have to hand it to Fleetwood Mac for trying to have a 7 minute instrumental track inspired by Spanish guitar as a single. The use of the first two minutes as the A-side was against the songwriter’s wishes with it being a throwaway piece for the B-side. Somewhere along the way the tracks got swapped and it is those first two minutes that went on to be a hit.

Despite being a throwaway ‘Oh Well, Part 1’ went on to be an influential song because of how it fused harder rock with blues rock. As a single it showcases two very different sides of the same songwriter – so I’m glad that I got to hear both parts,

The Real Thing – Russell Morris

Oh psychedelia. We are seeing you on your way out by now in most markets and being replaced with harder rock or a revival of folk… so of course we see a bit example of Australian psychedelia. Without the instant sharing of musical influences things would have trickled around the world so much slower.

It’s not your regular psychedelic rock song. This had the whole music producer toolkit behind it which lead to a lot of interesting effects being used that make this song rather unique and mindbending. The ending alone where it appears that another song is trying to intrude on ‘The Real Thing’ is remarkably odd.

At the time this was the most expensive song in Australian history, coming in at about the same cost as an average album.

Progress: 276/1021

Good Eatin’ – Cardoon Risotto

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You DieFood item: Cardoon

Barcelona was amazing. Not only was it amazing as a city, but it also allowed me to take home a bunch of foods and have follow-up blog posts about sausages and cheeses. With this jar of cardoon (or cardo in Spanish) I have used all the foods that I brought back with me.

From the look of the cardoon as it sits there in the jar I was expecting it to smell and taste like celery. Nope, that hypothesis was immediately disproved by the unscrewing of the lid. Since the cardoon in this jar came pre-prepared it had the taste of a cross between artichoke and palm heart.

I could imagine these pieces of cardoon being good on a pizza or in a pasta dish. However, since I discovered bags of unused risotto rice as part of a cupboard clear out, there was an obvious cooking choice that came to mind.

Thanks to Honest Food for this recipe for cardoon risotto. The artichoke flavour of the cardoon in the risotto was very subtle. You could only really taste it as an aftertaste once the initial flavours of garlic and parmesan cheese subsided.

It’s at a point like this where I wish cardoon could be found in the UK as I can think of so many other uses for this vegetable. Yes it made for an interesting base for the risotto, but I really wish I had another jar of this to stick on a pizza with some rocket and goat cheese. That should be delicious, right?

Progress: 655/751

Acclaimed Albums – Electric Ladyland by The Jimi Hendrix Experience

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 134/250Title: Electric Ladyland
Artist: The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Year: 1968
Position: #26

It has been over two years since I listened to the other two Jimi Hendrix albums. With any other artist I would need to be more specific, but The Jimi Hendrix Experience is the only group to have all the albums that they ever released to be in this Top 250.

The thing that continues to surprise me is that all the albums that Jimi Hendrix released in his lifetime came from his time in a trio. Most people would know who Jimi Hendrix is and might just about be able to name a song. However, I bet you most would assume he released this work solo, rather than with two Englishmen.

Having listened to Electric Ladyland all I can do is double down on what I said last month when I specifically listened to the final track off this album. Say what you want about the music that Jimi Hendrix created but you cannot deny his talent as a guitarist. Obvious, but it is worth repeating.

One thing, however, that is extremely striking is how much his sound has evolved from Axis: Bold As Love. Honestly, this was probably my least favourite of the three Jimi Hendrix albums for this reason. It’s not that I disliked the music, but two discs and 80 minutes is a bit much for me. Same goes for the two tracks that both come in at over 13 minutes.

So that’s it for Jimi Hendrix. I’ve come out of it respecting his talent, but still unable to give the name of a particular track that I would see as a highlight. Didn’t really expect anything else, but at least I gave it a go.

Acclaimed Albums – 2017 Update

It’s that time again. Acclaimed Music, where I source the Top 250 albums for, has had their first update in two years.

In real terms this means that a number of albums that I have written about, including  I Am A Bird Now and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots and are no longer included whereas albums such as Blackstar, Carrie and Lowell and xx are now entries. Whilst I have listened to a lot of the new entries, I figured it would be worth giving them all a re-listen anyway as is the spirit of this particular list.

I was hoping that I would have finished the 250 before the next update and then use that as a chance to go for the next milestone (whatever that may be), but I haven’t exactly been listening to these albums at a fast pace… so maybe next time.

Still, thought it was worth explaining why, suddenly, the number for this next entry has gone down. You can see the updated list with my links and crossings off here.

Thanks for reading!

Good Eatin’ – Sweet Lotus Bean Soup

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You DieFood items: Lotus Seeds and Muscovado Sugar

A big thanks to my friend Rachel for buying me this bag of lotus seeds. It’s so great to have friends who are supporting me on my way to complete this list. Granted it has taken me months to get around to making something with the lotus seeds… but that’s what the May Bank Holiday is for right?

Also in this blog entry is me finally getting around to crossing off muscovado sugar. I think that, with the exception of kaffir lime leaves, this is the last food list item that is readily available in the supermarket. It’s just that muscovado is such a rich and treacly dark sugar that I haven’t had something to make with it… until now.

Of all the possible used for lotus seeds, of which Google has demonstrated there are many, I opted for a recipe from the KitchenTigress blog for a sweet soup.

So this is what a sweet soup looks like. It’s piping hot, smells like caramel and I would totally make this again. Like with most other recipes I had to make some alterations because I don’t exactly live in a town with a lot of East Asian supermarkets or places where I can buy pandan leaves. So I substituted in a few dollops of vanilla extract – it was delicious. Also, I used a 2:1 mix muscovado and regular granulated sugar, which gave the soup a rich caramel flavour.

The lotus seeds themselves didn’t have too much of a flavour. They were nutty and that’s about it, but that was more than enough to compliment the muscovado sugar. Honestly, i would happily make this again, probably closer to Christmas because I can imagine adding some festive spices to this soup to make it even better.

Progress: 654/751