Wednesday, February 28, 2007

You need to speak LOUDER when talking to foreigners

Well last weekend my Dad was in Paris on the "lad's weekend" for the France-Wales game. At one point they were in a bar with a group of acquaintances or friends-of-friends, including a journalist for the Western Mail who was staying sober in order to write up his article. So, for this round he asks the girl[1] with him to get him a coke.

Five minutes later the waiter plonks a cheese and ham toasted sandwich down in front of him, which is stared at in bemusement by all at the table. "Did you ask him to get me 'Un Coke, Monsieur'?" says the guy. The girl agrees. "I thought so", he says, "this is a croque-monsieur."

(The owner was puzzled at the gales of laughter coming from those strange foreigners in the front of his bar).

[1] In this case, girl could refer to any female up to about 35 years old.

Sunday, February 25, 2007


Discussing curry in a curry restautant on Saturday night, we talked of how children aren't introduced to curry at an early age. Or if they are, it's the classic English mince, curry powder and sultanas curry.

My experience was a little different. I don't remember when I was first taken to a curryhouse, but for as long as I can remember we've cooked curry at home. Especially I recall my Dad cooking the prawn curry from a booklet of Rajah Brand Spices recipes. This was always exciting - Dad cooking, smell of spices, and PRAWNS! - for reasons that nowadays seem a little unimpressive.

The other thing is that my Dad comes from Leicester, which has a big Indian community. It's in no way a suprise to me to go into a curryhouse in the early eveing and find it full of families eating out.

This post has kind of gone off in a variety of directions, that I can't really tie back together, so here's a recipe for curry parsnip soup.

Curry Parsnip Soup

4 large servings

1 large and 1 very large parsnip, peeled and cut into chunks
1 onion, chopped
a piece of ginger about the size of my thumb joint, peeled and grated
2 small cloves of garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons mysterious curry powder out an unmarked packet
boiling water
vegetable oil[1]

Heat the vegetable oil. Fry the onion, garlic and ginger for about the time it takes to cut up the parsnip. Add the parsnip and stir in the oil and onion for as long as it takes to boil the kettle. Add the curry powder and turn the parsnip pieces so the powder is spread throughout. Add the water, stir and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer for about an hour, or until the parsnip is soft, then whizz up. Serve hot.

[1] Enough to fry the onion with, unless you're Vas, in which case slightly more.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

St Cyril's Day

To place it all in one place, and avoid having to do any actual work, so I'm going to recycle 2005 and 2006's emails about 14 February.

Anne 14/02/05:

For those (few) of you who don't know - there are more saints than days, so they have to share.

Today, in fact is also St. Cyrils day.

So, Happy St. Cyrils day.

(Neil - what is St Cyril the patron saint of??)

Me 15/02/05:

The Cyrillic alphabet.

Actually, I think he just invented it (no, really)

Me 16/02/06:

On an additional note, last year Anne asked me what St Cyril (feast day: 14 Feb) was patron of; I can now answer:

Bohemia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Czechoslovakia, ecumenism, Europe, Moravia, unity of the Eastern and Western Churches, and Yugoslavia

St Valentine of course patronises:

affianced couples, against fainting, bee keepers, betrothed couples, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greeting card manufacturers, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travellers, and young people

It's good to see him taking on a few unpleasant things such as plague to go with his otherwise very popular portfolio.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The development of Sci-Fi serials

So anyway, on Saturday night Jim and I watched six episodes of Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers Conquer the Universe (1940), which, it appears is a sequel to Flash Gordon. For a variety of reasons we didn't watch all of it, but I will note the following:

Flash seems very mission oriented. Having infiltrated Ming's palace, rather than, for example, trying to shoot or capture Ming, which would end all of Ming's plans[1], he prefers to destroy the power generator and/or rescue the prisoner.

Ming and Dr Zharkov seem to be involved in a move/countermove game, where one will invent a weapon, and the other will counter it. I can't help feeling they ought to just play chess by mail or something.

The Rocketships spark and appear to be constantly on the verge of catching fire, crashing or blowing up. In fact, their landing technique appears to be to crash onto a flat area.

Dale swirls her cloak a lot. Also she panics when things go wrong. If she can't cope with dangerous situations, she should stay at home. No one forced her onto the rocketship at gunpoint (this time).

Six cliffhangers in a row is too much for me. I can see why you'd watch them a week apart.

Also, Ming's plans are very short sighted. I thought he was smarter than that. Why does he always act like a 30's serial villain?

Anyway, we agreed that Sci-Fi serials have come a long way since then, in terms of acting, characterisation, plotting, special effects, stunts and costumes. Then we watched three episodes of Cleopatra 2525.

(Jim - here is the song In the Year 2525, which the theme tune is based on.)

[1] Ming seems to have the problem that absolute rulers often face: nothing gets done without him ordering it, and anyone who claims to have an order from Ming can do anything they want.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Stan's tarot: Cups Part 2

Note: The court cards are often used to represent the querent in a reading, so in theory one card will represent you. But which one? If you want to fins out, here's some guidelines:

For each court card I've put down the qualities they represent in a person as a first paragraph; the other readings in the second. Cups represent emotion and reflection and, as I've previously noted the water zodiacal signs. Physically they represent people of "common" colouring, those neither very dark or very fair. Traditionally, children and young women take a Page; older women the Queen; young men the Knight and older men the King.

All of these are pretty vague, and for good reason; it's about what you yourself think of the card. If you feel attracted to a particular card, you should choose that one.

8 of Cups

Abandon materialism and financial security to seek spiritual fulfillment. Leave the old life and seek a new one of simplicity and order. A journey of body or mind. Discover more about yourself by exploring the world around you.

9 of Cups

Joy, fun, merriment; parties, entertainment and social gatherings. Good health, good fortune and fulfillment of wishes. Worldly desires satisfied. Meeting new people and new friends. Be moderate - this card can indicate an excess of enthusiasm.

10 of Cups

Contentment and domestic joy. Familial bliss, celebration, peace and plenty. Total harmony achieved.

Page of Cups

A quiet, gentle studious youth; or an emotional youth; or an older person with youthful qualities.

A message or news. An important time or change in a relationship. Creativity and inspiration. Development of a strong emotional tie. Also: the zodiac sign of Pisces.

Knight of Cups

A sensitive young man of depth; emotional and capable of deep and intense love; afraid to commit for fear of being hurt.

A new lover or intimate friend. An approaching opportunity. An inspired and creative person.

Queen of Cups

A warm loving woman; maternal and nurturing; loyal, honest and trustworthy.

The fulfilment of sacred emotions. Love and care. Accept the myriad of different aspects of your soul and understand their relation to the ones you love. A creative woman. A lover of art and poetry. Also: Scorpio.

King of Cups

A warm loving man; a man who gives good counsel; intuitive, creative,gentle; at home with both masculine and feminine sides.

A quiet achiever; spiritual satisfaction more important than material success.

Edit:To see the introduction and part one, click on the Tarot label below.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Pheasant Pot Roast

For reasons that I don't entirely recall, I adjusted a grouse recipe from Good Housekeeping for a pheasant last week.

Pot Roast Pheasant (serves 3)

1 medium-sized pheasant
1 onion roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic sliced
1 large carrot roughly chopped
2 stalks celery roughly chopped
some butter
2 slices bacon
very nearly half a bottle of red wine

Season the bird with salt and pepper. Tie the bacon over the breasts of the pheasant. Heat the butter in a casserole. Brown the pheasant on all sides. Throw in the vegetables and allow to sweat for 5 minutes. Pour in the wine, then put in a 150C oven for 1 hour.

Check the pheasant is cooked. The wine should have cooked down to a rich sauce. You could whizz up the vegetables in the sauce, but I left them rustic. Serve with "Game Chips"[1], breadcrumbs (baked with herbs and butter) and vegetables (cauliflower in my case).

[1] Actually crisps heated up

Bird Flu H5n1 v. Coq Au Trice

For not entirely unreasonable reasons, the demand for turkeys and other poultry will be depressed for a while yet, so we might be able to get some relatively cheaply.

On the other hand, as 160,000 turkeys have been slaughtered last week, there is also a drop in supply. This, along with the drop in demand, may make it difficult to source the bloody things, especially if we're in London.

Look forward to a post of traipsing around London looking in butcher shops.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

New Words

Coined today: Jock-ular

Refers to amusing Scotsmen.