Sunday, February 25, 2007

IMGP1983Sometimes one has to admire the Guardian (technically the Observer) for their sheer otherness. In today's Food Monthly, in an article titled The ultimate easy classics and with a first line reading How to whip up simple, delicious food, from pizza to macaroni cheese, they use the words "For the ganache".

Très simple.

But then I suppose they are doing things the easy way, as higher up the page the recipe for onion soup requires two tins of beef consomme. If one ignores the fact I had to look up what the last word meant, it probably is far simpler to use tinned consomme that make it oneself, but still I cannot help but think that the only thing which appears to be simple about that recipe is that word consomme appears sans accent.

Toast is simple. Baked apples are fairly easy. A recipe which reads "Stick potato in oven. Grate cheese." is reasonably doable. A recipe which requires one to grill soup is not really at the same end of the scale.

Even the omelette recipe sounds dangerously convoluted, as the writer proscribes stirring it different amounts during the various stages of cooking. It's the combining of the words "stir" and "omelette" that worries me, because, and I speak from experience here, that sounds suspiciously like the inadvertent path to scrambled eggs.

For those still bemused, a consumme/consummé is a soup which has been clarified with egg and a ganache is a thick blend of chocolate and cream (and which presumably has to made with panache).

Onto other stuff:
I've just finished reading Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks, the name of the author probably telling you all you need to know. Before that I finished Doctor Whom by ARRR Roberts, which was a Christmas present from she who has previously given me Ferrero Rocher, and which is definitely a book one can judge by its cover. It mocks both Doctor Who and Eats, Shoots and Leaves as Linnaeus Trout (geddit? And it's the type of book to use 'geddit?') and co do battle against the Garleks and the Cydermen (who regrettably do not ride in on their brand new intergalactic combine harvesters) amongst some of the most death-defying puns and crowbarred popular culture references known to mankind. It is the type of book one should put down seconds after receiving it, thereby leaving it for evermore in a friend's house (a bit like the hideous teddy bear that did the rounds of our little troika in college and university until someone's mother unsportingly binned it). Having read it I think it is definitely a book to be shared and so will 'lend' at my soonest convenience to she who thought that the 3 for 2 Waterstone's sticker must be a sign of quality (ye gods, you mean she paid something more than tuppence ha'penny for it?).

Bizarrely both books feature inhabited and war torn icebergs.

In other cultural delights Orange 241 Wednesday was spent not 241ing, instead buying DVDs at lunchtime, one of which was a gift for use later in the day. The two which weren't a gift were yet more £3-at-Fopp things (where else?), both are somewhere in the quirky end of the field, and can be summed up separately with the words silencio and seventh-and-a-half. The third film, which I already own, was a DVD of Brief Encounter, bought as present for Ben of The Lunatics having seen it in a list of his favourites on his Blogger profile (figuring that if he already has it then I'll simply use it as a birthday present for someone) and because I was due to meet him that evening.

So of course at ten past five I receive a text from him starting with the words "Blast! Need stitches...". Suppressing the urge to tell him that if he's silly enough to attempt to play football then things like this are going to happen, I reply while working on the assumption that events will be bleeding permitting and so it's all delayed or postponed.

He replies later to tell me he's on the road (texting while driving? Hmm said sternly), so I aimed to leave about the same time I would have left pre-injury, instead being typically me and hitting the "Oh hell! Is that the time?" stage which ensures I curse speed limits the whole way there (while not being too sure of what speed I'm doing because the dashboard lights have conked out so estimated speed is based on the engine pitch; obviously it helps if one can remember which gear the car is in).

Park, scurry down, arrive at the pre-arranged can't-really-miss-it venue, look out for a man in a suit, realise I should probably have been more specific in my directions but I hadn't there in years and had forgotten what a warren it is. He arrives, or possibly I catch him on the last of his many circumnavigations, some dithering occurs, drinks get bought, though both are soft because both are driving and one doesn't do alcohol anyway.

Adjourning to the nearest available seats, which happen to upstairs, we sit, attempt to talk and then I try to present him with his present. It turns out that while he did not already have a copy, it's not one of the films listed on his Blogger profile, because there are none listed.


And then I try to spend the rest of the evening recovering from that, simultaneously trying to work out whose profile it was on and why I thought it was Ben's, and how much I have to apologise, and how much I have to explain that despite the suggestion inherent in giving a copy of Brief Encounter to someone I have never met before while sitting in the modern equivalent of a station cafe, that meaning was not intentional.

So instead I realise this is the wrong place to have any type of meaningful conversation, that while he may disdeign alcohol and its influence on encounters I probably need it to allow me not to find myself faltering for words, snatching cruder alternatives (remembering too late that this is another thing he does not do), scattering the ashes of my own anecdotes (note to self: never tell hamster story to someone who owns chinchillas) and staring into the massed headlights of the oneway system in the otiose expectation that one light brighter than the rest will emerge and draw me away, leaving something far more entertaining in my place: 3 square inches of bubblepack should do it.

So a thrilling time was had by all. He was nice, if concussed and still bleeding (what form exists for pointing out the blood running down someone's forehead?), whereas I hit panic with the DVD and stayed somewhere in the realm of ineffectually dumbfounded for the rest of the evening. Eventually we leave, heading out and up and up again via a narrow alley, into an unlit stairwell with a disturbingly familiar smell. Once more unto the roof dear friend, to try to point out dull features rendered obsolete by the night.

And so we return to the cars, him unsure of where he left his, us discovering both fairly near each other, leaving me to wonder how he managed to find the exclusive back entrance (which I use because it's less crowded and because I've seen how pretty the lowest level looks when flooded). We compare dents while I notice his car seems devoid of all signs of life or former life except the leather seats (I'm not sure how many generations of spider have inhabited my car's left wing mirror).

We part, oddly, I remember the DVD in my bag and return to give it to him should he still want it (remind me never to let the mistakes show), and then I dawdle slightly to wave him off and not have him witness my attempts to start the car.

Driving out and failing to navigate that kerb (I've never known anyone not mount one of them) I realise I really should have been more concerned about his apparent confusion, his several hour drive back home and the head impact a few hours old. I should probably have told him not to drive, but that wouldn't have been practical. It might have been helpful to tell him about the hospital three roundabouts away rather than let him drive home instantly. But by the time I thought of it, his car was somewhere beyond the current cycle of lights.

So I sent him a text later, because as we know, they cure everything (assuming one doesn't tempt fate). The reply came from A&E at five to one in the morning after which I heard no more. But he must still be alive because I've noticed click-throughs coming from his blog, by someone using his work server.

I can't lie and say it was fun, we must do it again some time, because I'm not sure it was for either party. But then past brief encounters haven't necessarily been the best time ever on the first occasion. Hopefully there will be another and hopefully this time I'll plan things a bit better, building in mutual distraction thereby allowing any interaction to be from choice rather than unrelenting compulsion. Like an awful lot in both our lives, we'll have to see how this pans out.


What a splendid account. Reading it almost makes me feel like I was there.
I've compared and contrasted your accounts, and it makes genuinely enjoyable and hilarious reading. You've managed to record exactly what was going on inside your heads whilst your outward personas displayed bafflement, awkwardness and concussion. You could write books like this. I hope you become firm friends :)

PS: Iain M Banks is a genius. Excession nearly blew my head off. The Algebraist did. And I even liked Feersum Endjin and its stranj ryting.
So do you two know each other beyond blogs? [/pry]

IMB: M or no M, he's good (especially when found new for £2 even though I've got Sin's volumes to work through). Excession I remember being very absorbing, despite reading it 3 years after I lugged a copy round Tanzania not opening it (as you do).
'Beyond Blogs' - the name of the book, perhaps?

No, we don't, although we are mildly e-acquainted.
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