Jam, Gobble, Swallow & Burp

Today I’m eating lunch with my nine-month old daughter Florence; or rather, I’m busy being amused while she gobbles her food down with reckless abandon.

I’m jealous of Florence for the way she can eat, fistfuls of food, pulled with varying degrees of success into her gaping maw, coupled with an intense determination to enjoy it all. Her current method and manners suggest that, but for her age and current location in the space/time continuum, she wouldn’t look out of place at a fire-side boar feast in an Asterisk comic.

I wish I could eat like her: all enthusiasm and no cutlery, but if I tuck into even a pasty (a food surely designed to be eaten freehand) with any of her vim and vigour, I draw scowls of disapproval from nearby members of the public. “Eat that properly,” they think at my face, “or at least a little slower for God’s sake.”

But I don’t want to eat slowly, or carefully, or neatly, or politely. Sometimes I just want to tuck in with both hands like an angry viking, tearing where appropriate and slurping where possible. I want messy fingers and a dripping chin; I want evidence of a good time.

Much to the chagrin of my family and friends, I’ve always been a messy eater and I’ve spent the last thirty years being told to clean up my act. But I think now it’s time I let go of your expectations and followed my heart, if not my stomach. From now on I’m going to be taking my lead from Florence and the food goes in the way it comes out: messily and not without a certain degree of pleasure and satisfaction. If it feels right, I’ll be using cutlery, but if not, you’ve been warned. The only concession I’ll make is that I promise never to attempt Florence’s ultimate trick of indulging both ends at the same time. But only ’cause I love you guys.

Turning Lead Into Dinner

Cooking, like stand-up, can be an incredibly humbling experience. You can do all the preparation in the world, follow the instructions to the letter, pay close attention to the process and still be left with a shit-sandwich.
But we keep coming back to the stove/microphone even after we’ve crashed and burned so the rewards must be pretty awesome if we’re happy to risk such dismal, and often public, failure.

I only came to cooking late, partly because I didn’t know how great it could be, but mostly because I was a firm believer that the toasted sandwich was the pinnacle of human culinary achievement. In hindsight, there is still something great about the toastie, but it’s very much the LEGO of food – just assemble the pieces correctly and it will be roughly what it’s meant to.
Proper cooking though, is like alchemy. You have your base ingredients and hopefully, through a series of arcane rituals and the proper application of fire, you can transmute your articles into something greater than the sum of its parts.

I’ve never really achieved this, but I’ve come close enough to believe that I should keep trying, despite the embarrassing failures.
Last night I made risotto for the first time, and I knew that it was going to be a little tricky. In the past, I’ve cleaned up after other people have made risotto, so I know that there’s nothing fun about trying to remove two inches of burnt rice off the bottom of a saucepan with a chisel.

I love “fire and forget” cooking, like roasts and casseroles – anything that you’re allowed to walk away from for a while with a glass full of wine and a head full of dreams about how good the finished product will be. Risotto, unfortunately, is like a child with ADHD wearing a suit made of dynamite. It requires constant care and attention to make sure that it doesn’t go crazy and ruin your kitchen.
I thought that I had it all under control, but as soon as I started adding the wine to the risotto in a manner known as “one for Kent, one for the risotto”, it was all over.

I write this to you from one day after the disaster, sitting at my kitchen table ,typing on my laptop while forking re-heated risotto from last night into my cake-hole. It’s not a wholly unpleasant experience, the asparagus and the spring onions have come through nicely but consistency really ruins the experience.

Upon tasting the risotto fresh out of the pan last night, my fiancee summed it up best when she remarked, “this is like eating semi-tasty, rice-based cement”. And she was right.

Dubious Friends

I know this is more vitriol than comedy, but I didn’t have time to be angry AND funny today.

Ok, so Israel sends a Mossad hit squad to Dubai to murder a Hamas leader and the UK gets angry – so far so good. UK then calls Israeli ambassador to the foreign office for diplomatic bollocking – also looking good.

Unfortunately this is where disillusionment kicks in, as it becomes apparent that all the UK is concerned about is the fact that some members of the Israeli assassination team were travelling on fake UK passports. What the fuck? Who gives a shit about passports when your friend just sent a massive team of assassins to murder someone.

I don’t know about you, but if one of my friends killed a dude, I wouldn’t give a flying fuck about their travel documents, at least not until I’d gotten my head around the fact that I’ve been friends with someone who’s obviously a massive dick. Even so, there would be some pretty heavy consequences as a result of that crazy little thing called murder.

For a start, I don’t think that we’d be friends any more. We all have friends who are dicks, but surely there’s got to be a line, and I think murder is a good place to draw it. I know that Hamas can be real arseholes, but who deserves a 17 on 1, gang-bang style assassination in their Dubai hotel. You know you’ve crossed a line when there are Australian Rugby League players who think that you’ve got too many people in the hotel room.

Secondly, I’d voice some heavy disapproval. I think that assassinations on foreign soil deserve a slightly sterner rebuke than “please don’t murder anyone while you’re carrying our passports”. Maybe the focus of the rebuke could even be less on forgery and more on the cold, calculated, state-sanctioned killing if humans.

I think it’s correct and proper that the world is a upset with Israel, but get angry at the right thing. If you’re out to dinner with mates and one of them climbs on his chair, shits on the table, then pulls up his pants and sits down as if nothing happens, it’s ok to get angry… but not because he didn’t wash his hands.

Ramen & children first

After last week’s Rame-geddon I decided to have another shot at the title making Japanese noodle soup.

I managed to finally pull something together that looked the part, didn’t smell offensive and tasted much better than last week’s effort (a hybrid taste of wet-dog and racism); unfortunately, just after the ramen was ready, there was a baby-centric, shit-themed emergency that had to be dealt with immediately. By the time the crisis was averted (i.e. the baby was cleaned), the ramen was cold, the vegetables were soggy and the cook disappointed.

I’m glad I don’t believe in a god, because if I did, all the signs would be pointing towards him/her/it/they not wanting me to make ramen, and I’m not going down without a soba-filled fight.

In honour of that fighting spirit, here is another ramen-related graph, which, weirdly enough, was easier to make than the ramen iteself.


Flying Solo

Last night, while sitting alone, eating a post-gig dinner, in a Bristol curry house I realised that there’s something wonderful about doing a normally-social activity on your own. Whether it’s going to the movies, eating at a restaurant or having sex, flying solo can be such a liberating experience. You’re suddenly in complete control of the event; free to watch that shitty sci-fi, order two desserts and dress up in a Batman suit while you give yourself a thorough seeing-to.

Despite being on my own for last night’s meal, when I first scanned the menu, the first thing I did was to find something that might reconcile my preference for spicy food with my fiancee Charly’s aversion to chilli. But then came the realisation that I was alone, and with it, a wave of emancipation as I was freed from the constraints of the social experience and could order whatever the hell I wanted. I went straight to the hot-as-buggery section, picked out a chicken jalfrezi that would never make it onto a social table – in the same way that Roxette is never allowed on the bedroom stereo – and sat down to enjoy my monstrously hot meal while I read the paper; a happy man with no friends.

Of course, there is a down-side to going it alone – when the wheels fall off, there is no one to help you out. I accidentally swallowed a whole chilli midway through an article about the Iliad; then had to flag down a waiter, use rudimentary semaphore to order a water and extinguish the fire that raged in my oesophagus, all without the assistance and sympathy that a companion might have afforded. Had Charly been there, the moment would have then become a joke, something shared, an intersection on the long, solitary paths that are our lives. But because I was alone, I just spluttered to myself and coughed spicy chicken onto my newspaper while the two waiters sniggered and pretended not to see.

I guess there’s a balance that must be struck between having the experience you want, and having someone to share it with. I got to eat what I wanted, but now the only way to share it is to bang away on the keyboard and float it out into the interwebs, in the vain hope that it finds another solo, curry eater. That’s almost as depressing as the realisation that this paragraph now sounds like the voiceover at the end of an episode of The Wonderyears.