How many of them have you read? The recipe for the ‘perfect steak’. Every (male) idiot who ever owned a barbecue believes that he holds some mystical secret that makes his steak better than every other. They (you, if the cap fits) are almost all wrong. I have seen grown men squeezing the base of their thumbs and then poking their flaming steaks in an effort to prove perfect doneness. Most don’t know what they are doing. If I try that approach, I mess up the arthritis in my talon-like hands. I can prove nothing except that I can inflict some pain on myself. Blokes with fat hands only demonstrate that the steak is as thick as themselves.
So much wine. So much choice. So little room in the car.
While we were on our summer holiday, staying near St. Emilion in the Bordeaux region, the topic of bringing home a few bottles arose. We had driven to France, so it would be churlish to return empty-handed to Ireland. We Irish suffer penal and recently hiked taxes on our wine purchases. This has led to the wine choice on our little island being reduced along with both the quality and value for money. With that in mind, here’s my personal guide to buying wine in France.
One of the great deciders in life is how we deal with anticipation. I often feel that the joy of expectation can, in itself, be a greater pleasure than a desire satisfied. So too, can the dread of a potential negative outcome be far worse than the eventual reality. Keeping a balance between these two extremes can also be difficult. I tend to lean on the side of the optimists. That way, I get the pleasure of anticipation and, when things turn out well, the additional pleasure of having things go my way.
Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst led the Suffragette movement in the early part of the 20th century. They and their followers went to extremes to get the vote for women. They chained themselves to railings. They threw bricks through windows. They went on hunger strike. One of them even ended up killing herself under the king’s horse at the Epsom derby in 1913. Those lassies really wanted the right to vote. You now have that right. All I ask is that, if you are in Ireland, you use it with the wisdom that I know you posses.
Anybody who reads this blog regularly will know that vegetarian stuff is a bit of a rarity (usually an accident, in fact). Given that I like to discommode myself occasionally, and to try different things, it seemed reasonable to go veg for a change. So I got to thinking of salting some cabbage or frying some carrots, or whatever it is you vegetarians get up to when you are working up an appetite. Nothing inspiring came to mind. Eventually, I had a notion that I should try some ravioli. I hadn’t prepared it in a while. I could easily make it a vegetarian dish.
It’s a while since I have posted something from further east than Howth (A fishing port on the far side of Dublin Bay). This is a slight variation on a classic, served in some of the best Oriental restaurants around. It is not dished up in the average Chinese where the height of culinary ambition matches the diners’ desire for a gooey sauce and a slice of pineapple with their sweet and sour chicken balls. This dish has finesse. It has class and refinement. It does not go well with beer and it will never become a post-pub favourite in the way that chicken chow mein or prawn curry with fried rice have. This is a good thing.
Vanity. It has the potential to be the undoing of the best of us. I work hard to be both selfless and self-aware. However, I was wearing a skimpy tee-shirt (it was a hot day) in the middle of a French market. I heard a clear (too clear for my finely tuned Irish ear) English accent. “Ooooohhh. Look at those muscles. They are wonderful.” I blushed, as one of a fine physique and a self-deprecating attitude should. However, the owner of the sharp voice pushed by us and went to the seafood stall. I followed, somewhat crestfallen, joined the queue and bought a kilo for myself.
Sorry for the long-winded headline. But, there is an undeniable truth appended to the oversized introduction. That is “If you want a magnificent tomato sauce, you have to use fantastic tomatoes. “Snicker, snicker, snicker.”, you may reply. That’s because you wouldn’t recognise a magnificent tomato if you met it in the street. On our recent French holiday, while attending the Saturday market in St. Foy Le Grande, I met plenty of fine tomato specimens right there on the thoroughfare. Rather than tell you, let me show you.
In just 0.24 of a second, Google found me thirteen million, six hundred thousand roast chicken recipes. Surely, that’s enough for you to be getting on with? So, I should just leave things here. I shouldn’t bother buying a top quality, free range, Irish chicken. With that many recipes out there, there is little purpose. It would be a waste of time. There is no point in selecting some fine olive oil to bind the stuffing ingredients. It’s a fool’s errand getting my hands on some delicious and nutritious walnuts. No matter what I do, somebody has done it before. Those Google lads have all those recipes in their rows and rows of filing cabinets. Why should I waste my time, lovingly slicing onions, zesting a lemon and delicately plucking sage leaves from their woody branches? It would be very silly of me to lay my hands on some very finely sliced streaky bacon to drape across the decollage of the plump naked bird. All that so I can give those chaps over in Google another recipe and some more photos to add to the prodigious filing pile. It’s no wonder their office in Dublin is so big.
I was recently cycling through the Wicklow countryside with a couple of friends. As happens, conversations get started on the flat, dropped on the ascent, ignored in the excitement of a downhill and restarted when we all have our breath back. Often, we get strung out (not in a doping sort of way, we aren’t that type of cyclists). Conversations, started between three, can carry on for a time between two as the laggard joins up with the group. This can lead to some confusion as two will complete a conversation started by three. The third will join back up with the group and carry on from where things had been left off.