27 June 2010

eat the cup 2010, part 4

must apologise for the fact that i've been a bit slow with this update. strangely, this absence has been because i've actually taken a few days off from work, which always seems to leave me with less time. kind of turns logic on its head, but there you go.

i'll also have to apologise for the fact that i forgot to snap a picture of the night's dinner before i'd scarfed half of it down. whoops. at that point, it really didn't seem like such a great idea to snap a photo of the carnage, so i opted to go forward with the written portion only.

the fourth eat the cup dinner was an homage to the simply, straightforward, dynamic flavours of the mediterranean. it was particularly to note the advance of two teams situated along that body of water who don't get the culinary respect they deserve: spain and portugal (as you read that second one, please imagine the sound of me coughing up a large hairball.)

granted, we have seen more of spain since the onslaught of over-hyped, trendy "tapas bars" in the last five years or so. but a real spaniard would turn his or her nose up at those places. (or, more likely, roll his or her eyes and grunt "conyo"- a charming all-purpose spanish insult that has the same meaning, but not the same connotation, as a similar-looking word in english.) tapas are really just the spanish variant of pub bites. in north america, they've been transformed into an excuse for restaurants to charge their patrons the same amount of money for a lot less food.

two small spanish dishes that have a combined prep time of less than fifteen minutes and boast a huge flavour payoff are the tomato salad (tomatoes and diced spanish onion tossed with olive oil- of which spain is the world's largest producer, accounting for staggering 40-45% of world production- and red wine vinegar) and gambas al ajillo (shrimp stir fried in olive oil with enough garlic to take out the entire cast of twilight- which some might see as reason enough to eat it right there.) these are quick, basic foods. the kind of thing the owner of a bodega can throw together without too much effort, as he sloshes out glasses of wine. (spain is also the world's third largest producer of wine, although that's another well-kept secret.)

if portugal is known for one thing (sound of grating teeth trying to avoid smart-assed comment) in the culinary world, it is probably the whimsical-sounding piri-piri sauce. the ubiquitous brownish-red chili concoction can be used for marinating, basting or dipping. it's often combined with meats, but in this instance, it was used for the pleasure of dunking- that activity that really distinguishes the lusty appetites of the common man from the more genteel classes. (tell me there isn't something almost erotically transgressive about eating with your hands, all those comingling juices dripping over your lips and down your fingers...) and so, in celebration (hack-hack-hack, here comes another hairball) of portugal's emphatic win over rivals north korea (yeah, whatever, they scored a lot, old news, move on, -ed.), i prepared my first piri piri.

of course, if you have dunking sauce, you have to have dunkables. in this case, i made cornbread, since various sorts of corn-meal based loaves are staples in the cuisine of uruguay and paraguay, both of whom also celebrated victories (and who have both since moved on to the "knock-out" round). cornbread is one of those things that stands in defiance of the idea that baking is tricky. seriously, starting out, this is the sort of thing that will build your baking confidence like no other. recipes generally involve fewer than half a dozen ingredients and are, by baking standards, pretty forgiving.

to round things off, of course, you need a nice wine. in this case, i selected something from chile, who have quietly been tramping over the opposition in their inexorable movement towards... a game with the almighty brazil in the knock-out round, unfortunately. in honour of their progress, however, i picked a carmenere. carmenere is a french varietal, however it is almost unknown in its homeland and is now almost synonymous with chile. i don't know that i've ever seen a predominantly carmenere wine from any other country. i'll just take this moment to reiterate what those who know me have already heard: i'm a real fan of chilean wines. once the poison grapes scandal had died down and once it was no longer politically reprehensible to buy chilean wine (i have a distinct teenage memory of seeing a shirt that said "if you're buying food from chile, you're already sick. thus is young political conscience awakened.), i got to discover that they are (along with spain, actually), one of the best quality-for-dollar deals you're going to come across. and those of us who can't fork over for a high-end burgundy or northern california cabernet appreciate that sort of thing.

until next time, salud. the field will narrow, but the menu will not.

(ok, ok, i give. several people have noticed that there is an elephant in the room. one team has a perfect record, a rich culinary tradition and yet, somehow, has not made it into this year's eat the cup. forgive me. i love brazil, i really do. and i love their food most of all. the thing is, i started off trying to go with those countries who i felt had less of a chance of advancing. i know i'm going to have time to get to brazil, because i don't see anyone knocking them out of the tournament in the next couple of rounds. that said, i'm thinking i might want to get to work, because this is exactly the sort of thinking that has prevented this year's 'eat the cup' from including bouillabaisse or risotto.)

23 June 2010

the filth and the fury

as many of you know, i have done a lot of writing on music for paraphilia magazine, a peon of the perverted arts if ever there was one. but you might not have known that their newest issue features one of my short stories, one that either seems to alienate people utterly or win them over as die-hard fans. please do check it out, as this is a great place to discover the kind of writing that is routinely ignored by anything in the mainstream, or even in most artistic communities. bonus titillation: i say fuck a lot.

21 June 2010

wanted for assault!


i'd like to call everyone's attention to the photo of the culprit. on or about 13h30 EST on june 21st, someone matching this photo did willfully and without regard for the fact that i was lost in my own world, as is my wont, fly into my hair, his claws becoming momentarily entangled therein and frightening me enough that i made an awkward and very silly squawking noise. if seen, this suspect should be approached with caution. it is suspected that his eyesight isn't too good, since i really don't look very much like a tree.

eat the cup 2010, part 3

one of the surprises of this years' winners at the world cup is that those whose cuisine I'm familiar with- the ones I’m already comfortable cooking from- just aren’t winning. So this really is a challenge for me this year.

The third installment of this year’s eat the cup sees a combination of foods from far-flung corners of the world, with different climates and different dishes to accommodate them.

First of all, let’s start with Uruguay. I had to brace myself for this, because this is a cuisine I knew virtually nothing about. As with all things on the internet, there is mixed information available, but one common thing was found throughout the sites that I checked. Apparently, Uruguayans love something called Russian salad. I have no idea why this should be, or what exactly makes it Russian, but every article I found on Uruguayan food lists this as a favourite dish. I had eaten such a salad before, prepared by a Spaniard. So maybe it’s a Spanish-speaking thing. The salad itself is a fairly simple take on a potato salad and makes a refreshing side for a summer meal. (Perhaps it was Uruguay’s penchant for Russian salads that made the US suspicious that they were a secret hotbed of communism that needed to be controlled.)

On the other end of the scale, of course, you have the fondue. This has been one of my favourite dishes since I was a child. After all, what can compete with the sheer joy of being told you are supposed to dunk your food in delicious goo- cheese, chocolate or bouillon- before eating it? These cheese fondue has always been a particular favourite of mine. Hearty, straightforward and generally filled with tangy Swiss cheeses like Emmenthal and Gruyere, this is really the ultimate comfort food for people looking for relief from the alpine winters and the endless stream of tourists asking them if they yodel. Personally, I’m a purist, which means I don’t hold with those who dunk vegetables in the cheese. This is not vegetable country and if you’re trying to be healthy, I might point out that drowning your food in runny cheese is a bad start.

The nice thing about preparing food from countries that are out of the ordinary- and I think that this meal is a great example- is that “new” doesn’t have to mean complicated. This is something that can be prepared even if you’re running short on time (insert obligatory cuckoo-clock joke here). Thus are disparate cuisines brought together.

16 June 2010

eat the cup 2010, part 2


add world cup soccer to the list of things that make strange bedfellows. i mean, it's not enough that "tie" is apparently the new "win", since everyone's doing it, but when there are winners, they are from places of the world that go, well, a little strangely together.

certainly that's the case with the second meal in the tournament (and, yes, i know i'm lagging a couple of days behind, but hopefully that's soon to be corrected). our two winners on the day were japan, who defeated cameroon and the netherlands, who defeated near-neighbour denmark.

the japanese win was seen as a bit of a surprise, but a quick survey of japanese popular/ culture should be an adequate enough indication that they are a country full of surprises. a highly formalised, hierarchical culture long after such things had started to fade in the western world, the swirling inner kaleidoscope that is the interior life of japan seems to be the one thing that can unite the rest of the world in a quiet moment of "wtf?"

it occurred to me to try to make some kind of sushi rolled in sliced dutch cheese, but that seemed a little ambitious and, frankly, the only reason to burden fish with the heaviness of cheese is if you're trying to hide a certain lack of freshness.

by comparison, the dutch were expected to be one of the teams to pass on to the second round with relative ease and most have picked them to come out on top of their group (i did). many would probably put it down to the legalised hash brownies, but the dutch seem like a mellow, accepting people with a penchant for diplomacy, windmills and rather uncomfortable-looking shoes. however, if you've ever seen them in an international soccer tournament, you'd realise the mellowness is there because all the pent-up rage and violence is spent at matches. they're not chilling out. they're conserving energy for a future bloodbath. (keep in mind, this is the same country that quietly usurped the british throne when no one was looking.)

in keeping with the appearance of conservatism and gentleness, dutch cuisine is mild, hearty and plain. so for the night's meal, i chose to make cod, a staple of the fishery in holland, but to combine it with the punchy, in-your-face flavours found in japan.

and so we create cod marinated in miso with wasabi, served on a nice, soft, beige bed of udon noodles. the sauce adds some wildness, some intensity that may come from the far east but, i think, does a pretty decent job of showing what really lurks being that sweet, milky dutch exterior.

15 June 2010

dj kali @ spooky boogie night 2010.06.13

so the burning monday crew has returned to the katacombes, only now it's on sunday, because mondays are, like, so three months ago. so this is the micro-set that marked my personal return to the wheels of steel (more like the wheels of polyethylene compound, but anyway).

implog :: she creatures
siouxsie & the banshees :: arabian knights
sleep chamber :: snakebite
the klinik :: moving hands
skinny puppy :: falling
severed heads :: now an explosive new movie
imminent :: garn
mika vainio :: goths
von magnet :: capricious horses
geomatic :: the bliss
xeno & oaklander :: shadow world
absolute body control :: i wasn't there
joy division :: atrocity exhibition
blank dogs :: tin birds
devo :: fresh
killing joke :: follow the leaders
the damned :: lively arts

[ok, you may have noticed that the ending to this was a little off. i was a bit pressed for time and ended up taking ff in a hurry with only about half the cd's i normally take and, yes, the novy svet album where my closing track is found was one of those left behind. everyone was confused and unsettled, there was pandemonium. dammit, you should never leave your soldiers behind! haven't i learned that yet?]

eat the cup 2010, part 1



and so it begins... again.

some of you who know me or who have been reading this blog for a long time (four years or more- thanks, by the way), know that i decided to integrate my interest in cooking into the world-wide world cup fever that takes over in the month of june (and into early july). for no reason in particular, this phrase "eat the cup" occurred to me in the same instant that i had the idea that it would be hilarious and fun to start cooking a meal in honour of the day's tournament winners. and indeed, despite some competitive disappointment on my part at the end, the whole thing was fun- lots of fun. and there really isn't any reason not to do something again when it's fun (as long as there aren't criminal charges involved).

this year, in order to be equitable during the opening round and in the interest of making things as difficult for myself as i possibly can, i've added a little wrinkle. for the first round, rather than simply picking a match and cooking a meal in the style of that team's homeland, i'm going to make meals that fuse elements of the cuisines of the day's various winners. that'll make something fun even... funner...

of course, this year's tournament has already shown its willingness to laugh in my pasty white face, since the first winners all seemed to hail from countries where veal is considered a vegetable. since i tend to avoid either red meat or poultry, this adds a wrinkle on which i hadn't counted. from what is being predicted, i take comfort in the fact that the delightful fleur sauvage natural food shop in my neighbourhood has a healthy supply of mock bavarian sausages and mock italian sausages. (no it isn't cheating!)

so to start things off, i decided to wait until sunday to cook a big meal (because sunday just feels like a cooking day and friday, when i really should have started, i was headed out to a show. this isn't the kind of thing that can just be rushed along.) of course, the teams did cooperate a little by limiting the number of winning teams that i actually had to contend with. heck, if i'd started on friday night, i'm not sure what i would have done. if there's no clear winner that day, should i just fast? that sounds like less fun.

by sunday, however, there were some clear winners and so i set to work making a feast in their honour.

lettuce and rice wraps with spicy sauce (korea)

in fact, both koreas have teams in the world cup this year, and so far the one team to play scored the first clear victory of the tournament, with a convincing victory over greece. these little wraps are pretty simple street food, but the magic is in the sweet, spicy, pungent and garlicky sauce. (korea can compete with any nation on earth in the love of garlic sweepstakes.) this year provides a welcome chance for the team to prove themselves after winning their bid for the 2002 cup (sort of) under controversial circumstances and having their run for the cup tainted by accusations of referee malfeasance. the straightforward win was probably a welcome distraction for the nation after a catastrophic incident with the country's space program earlier in the week.

empanadas- these wonderful little dough-wrapped pockets of pure food pleasure can be stuffed with basically anything. although apparently spanish and portuguese in origin, they are associated mostly with the former colonies in south america. an unfortunate tendency i have to overwork dough made the crusts of mine a little too crusty, but these are really about the insides. (i probably set my expectations too high, in that i was spoiled in toronto by the drool-worthy el gordo- meaning "the fat one"- empanada emporium, which i always found superior to its better known neighbour.)in this case, i opted for a cheese filling, but in honour of two of the tournament's lesser-known victors, i added raisins (after a well-known slovenian dish, actually a dessert, with cheese and raisins) and chunks of sweet potato (a important food crop in ghana). as a side note, to roll out my dough, i used an empty australian wine bottle. because if country needed to feel that they could steamroll over something at the moment, it's got to be the australians.

and speaking of nods to less than inspiring play, i couldn't resist accompanying the meal with a tasty side dish of buttered greens, with a dash of lemon for that tang of bitterness.

to finish off, the meal was accompanied by a bottle of mosel riesling, the superstar german varietal, because their 5-0 shellacking of the australian team definitely deserves a toast. the hosts of the last world cup (and therefore the first "eat the cup") served notice that cup favourites argentina and spain are going to have a very tough time on their hands.

warning to those who may want to attempt this: this meal is rather astoundingly rich and managed to send two full-grown adults into what i would describe as a "food coma" and hoping that the next country to win would be one that is known for its superb crackers and soda water. the challenge continues tomorrow. onward and inward.

09 June 2010

like a gauntlet thrown at my very feet


ok, we've all heard the jokes about women and shoes. it's one of the "girliest" vices a woman can have. long ago, around the time that my mother started calling me "imelda" in high school, i learned to shrug off the mockery. the argument seems to be that they're frivolous (unlike 50" television screens) or that they're a waste of money (unlike gambling or lotteries) or that there's no way they could all have a practical use (unlike, say, well, almost anything we consciously choose to do). i am a woman with a very large shoe collection and dammit, i'm proud.

i never suspected i was the only one who felt this, but i did think that i was one of the few who could come up with cogent arguments as to why the process of self-indulgence is important, that allowing oneself to have things that can be enjoyed on a purely sensual level is an important part of the brain's reward system and that suppressing this urge will pervert it and make it come out in other ways (like just about every other urge we try to suppress).

but it's been called to my attention that one woman is making a very practical case as to why she has so many shoes: because she wears them all.

and she's chosen to document this blog style on elie's shoes.

well gee, i never thought about doing a photo essay as justification. how ludicrously simple. disprove the argument that my little darlings are impractical by showing me making practical use of them.

now all of a sudden, my high-toned arguments sound a lot like that super-space aged pen that the americans developed, the one that could write upside down, so the astronauts could use it in zero gravity. after investing millions of dollars, they found out that the russians used a pencil.
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