Gravy snobbery

Hereby hangs a tale and a cookery conundrum; how do you make gravy? Traditional rich thick gravy. Not so thick as to stand a spoon up with, but not so runny it’s more like dark water. Simple question isn’t it? Hey, no problem, use the dripping from the meat, a little Bisto and corn starch mixed in cold water and liquor from boiling the spuds for mashing and no problemo, right? Perfect every time.

I happen to like gravy made in this fashion. Great when the dinner choice is traditional English meat veg and potatoes? Just the ticket every once in a while, yeah? Some good old fashioned British style nosh for a change. Gravy made heavy on the onions for serving with Sausage and Mash, or with a pinch of garlic salt to add an edge to chicken or pork. It’s grrr-eat! Or not. However, chacun a son gout. Each to their own, right?

This evening the Sticker household was faced with a dire emergency. A cataclysm threatening to dwarf that bit of inclement weather over the other side of the continent by a factor of 12. No Bisto gravy powder; and I wasn’t going to hike 15km along rainstorm darkened rural Canadian roads to the nearest stockist just for one five dollar packet, or 25km to the nearest stockist of overpriced British products. Think of the carbon footprint dahlings! I thought in my naive optimistic way I’d just fire up the ‘pooter and find a recipe on the jolly old interweb. Job done, brownie points in the offing, another expats hurdle overcome. Yay. Piece of cake. Or not.

Typed the search term “Home made gravy browning” into the mighty Google and was promptly brought up short. Some of the recipes were along the lines of “Roast corn starch in oven for two hours at high heat until dark”, or “Caramelise sugar in an old pan you don’t particularly like, oh, and don’t forget to leave your windows open” which almost made me reconsider cooking roast chicken for Sunday supper. Some of the recipes I came across were far too cumbersome and time consuming. On the cookery forums I also found some snotty types saying that they only cooked ‘Au jus‘. Yes, I really needed to have some sauce snob clogging up the forums when I was trying to find a recipe or some helpful hints. If you don’t know how to make gravy, then what the fuck are you doing telling someone who does want that specifically British sauce about your preference for ‘Au-fucking-jus‘ on a thread asking for recipes? The sheer, looking-down-my-nose-at-you-cos-Delia-don’t-do-it-that-way ignorance of some people, really. Like those sanctimoniously superior people whose response when asked a simple question is to tell you that what you want isn’t what they would do – so you shouldn’t. WTF?

Good gravy, for those of you not initiated into its intricacies, is an art that Michaelangelo would have carved paeans of stone to glorify for eternity, had he not been a renaissance Italian, and therefore ignorant of such a delicacy. Smooth slippery simplicity made wonderfully glutinous and conjured mid to dark brown to accompany Roast Beef, Chicken, Pork, Venison, Lamb, Sausage, Moose, Elk or whatever. It is a particularly English taste, and one I’m proud to cater for, even though it took years for me to perfect my technique. Both stepkids specifically love my Onion gravy, and Youngest has made it known that when she becomes disgustingly rich, she will have me kidnapped and set to work as her personal cook. Or else set up home close by in order to have my small culinary expertise on tap. By such things are the bonds of family strengthened.

Yet this isn’t telling you how I resolved my gravy powder less condition, does it? O-kay. Unfortunately I had cleaned the meat pan after breakfast, and had no cooking grease left. So; I took a rasher of fatty bacon and grilled (broiled) it until there were a couple of teaspoons of bacon fat left in the pan and the rasher was a dried husk of its former self. Then I took a teaspoon of cornflour and mixed it with enough cold water to form a smooth, milky liquor in the sauce boat. Next step was a couple of dashes of Worcestershire Sauce and Soy sauce to darken the cornflour and water mix halfway to the desired state of brown. Next, I stirred in some hot water from cooking the vegetables and, decanting the mix into a small saucepan, let the sauce thicken on a low heat. Potato water is good for this, being slightly starch heavy, but can result in excessive blandness. So I mixed in some liquor from cooking the green vegetables. Finally, I added the bacon fat and seasoned very carefully to taste, stirring constantly to keep the lumps at bay until it had thickened to the desired consistency. The end result was a slightly more aromatic than usual sauce, but was consumed with gusto, and English style (No milk) mashed potatoes, roast chicken and mixed veg. Re-sult!

Some Australian and New Zealand cooks, so I am informed, use half a teaspoon of Vegemite, but I find that gives the end result a slightly odd flavour for my palate. The same for stock cubes. I really don’t like gravy made with stock cubes, I feel they overpower the taste of your dinner, and produce watery gravy anyway. My personal preference is for something with a bit more body, because runny gravy gives me PTSD-like nightmares of school dinners past, from which I sometimes awake sweating and screaming. The trick here is balance. Good gravy should not overpower the roast, like some sauces do. Its purpose is to accentuate, and add a rounded, softer edge, not to swamp. Unless it is particularly good gravy and carries much of the roasts flavour anyway, in which case, mine’s a pint.

Fortunately, Canada is a civilised country and good gravy is generally not hard to come by, even over here on the hippy drippy wet coast. The Quebeckers (bless ’em) even invented Poutine, which is French Fries with lashings of cheese curds and thick gravy. But on the cookery forums, oh my goodness, there’s more controversy over gravy than global warming alarmism, the pro and anti camps are so polarised. For heavens sake it’s just a bloody sauce!

Yet I find in my search for Bisto-less gravy the mirror for much that is wrong in the world. When you go looking for advice, there is too much telling you what you should want, and too little telling you how to do what you want the right way. Sometimes I feel it’s like going into a cigar store and asking for a fine Havana, only to be offered a lecture on the evils of smoking and handed a pamphlet on Cancer awareness with a pack of nicotine flavoured gum. Or, if you like, entering a liquor store and asking for a 15 year old fine Malt Whiskey only to be handed half a pint of Soy Milk and a stern imprecation about the evils of alcoholism. Both of which, if anyone is interested, I would consider a casus belli. There are people in this world who really should know when to butt out. The only problem is that far too many appear entrenched in positions of public trust, snouts firmly wedged in the taxpayer trough, narrow minded eyes on their pet causes and regarding all else as a threat. Perhaps we could do with a cull.

In the meantime, all I have to say to such people is this; you can stop me having gravy with my fortnightly English roast when you can pry the sauce boat out of my cold and dying hands. To me, saying ‘Au Jus’ is the only way is just another way of declaring your culinary incompetence.

A fishermans tale

This is a completely true story. Not terribly dramatic, no-one famous was involved, nothing really happened, but I’ll try to explain my reasons for recounting the incident in question at the end.

In the late 1990’s I was taking a long weekend down in Cornwall. On my own as usual. I’m a solitary individual by nature, and during those years had grown to like long, lazy time outs casting my cares, and the odd line or two, on the waters. As far as human company was concerned, I’d given up on it and immersed myself in my job. That morning I’d picked up a crab line at one of the local beach shops, and taken myself down to a small rocky bay called ‘Prussia Cove‘, one time haunt of the notorious wrecker and pirate, ‘John of Prussia’. It’s a picturesque little place, popular with snorkelers, and of interest for the cart ruts cutting obliquely through rocks from the beach to the little rocky channel to the west. As you face the water, up above on the left are the grey granite Coastguard cottages overlooking the tiny beach. In Summer it’s as pleasant a piece of English Elysium as can be found on a (mostly) sunny day.

On this particular morning, I’d picked myself a spot on the rocks, sat down and waited for a couple in wetsuits to slip into the water before baiting a hook. After a few abortive attempts (standing on the line, throwing too hard, in the wrong direction, getting caught up in seaweed, usual shore fishing mistakes) I cast the weighted orange line some fifty feet or so into the desired middle of the channel. Not really expecting to catch anything. To be honest, at the time I was wrestling with a coding difficulty, and was making the best of this weekend time out for an exercise in contemplation. Taking my mind off the immediate problem, and just letting the light, wind and water work their magic on my hindbrain. Disengaging my mind from its usual over the top frontal assault and trying to slink up on the issue sideways.

“What are you doing?” The voice of a little boy quite startled me. An ordinary looking little lad, about four, maybe six. Slim build, wearing blue (I think) canvas shorts, off white T-shirt, curly dark brown hair forming a sort of mop on his head. Can’t remember what shoes he was wearing. Almost what I’d call the Christopher Robin look. I glanced around, media warped paranoia on overdrive. I’d briefly noticed the same rambunctious little lad annoying his Mother as I made my way down to the waters edge. I think they must have been staying close by. Dark haired woman in sunglasses, mid / early 20’s, lightweight floral dress. Wearing a wide brimmed sun hat as I recall. When she’d been speaking to him earlier I’d registered her accent; educated middle class Surrey. Did I mention I used to pride myself on my ear for English accents? Never mind. Not important.

At the time this whole “All white men are racists, paedo’s and rapists” thing was just beginning to gain ground in the tabloid media, and smelling possible trouble, I tried to brush this intrusive kid off. “Fishing.” I shrugged, reeling the line in. My thinking was to let him get bored and drift away in case Mum came storming over and called the cops. Not that I was doing anything wrong, just fishing. Why couldn’t the little tyke go and amuse himself elsewhere? Leave me in peace? That’s all I wanted.

“Can I have a go? Please?” For a nanosecond I thought about telling him bluntly to go away, but that’s not really my nature. He was being so polite, and Mum was less than a hundred yards away, no doubt keeping a watchful eye on her child, so on the next cast I demonstrated what I was trying to do, reeled in the line and let him try his luck. What can I say? I’m a sucker for lost kittens, puppies and children, and would rather die than see harm come to them. He made a mis-throw, I reeled the line in and let him try again.

For the next half hour, we took turns casting the lead polo mint weighted line out into the little channel, the snorkelers snorkelling in their wetsuits out where the calm waters were ruffled by a light swell, with the peace of a pleasant Cornish Summer late morning wrapping itself around us. Simply revelling in the small pleasure of male company while chilling out on a relatively fruitless task. His Mother seemed quite content to let her little boy please himself around the big stranger fishing at the waters edge.

What happened next made me sit back and think; “Danger! Warning! Warning Will Robinson!” He put his arms around my neck and gave me an unashamed hug, then sat down on our perch overlooking the water and leaned against me, rubbing my back as a kind of ‘thank you’. I clearly remember the rich soft warmth of a child’s physical contact, which gave me quite a jolt. Apart from handshakes, this was the most physical contact I’d experienced from anyone for several years. Did I mention I’m mostly a solitary soul? With a surprised look on my face, I glanced sideways to see his Mother (or female guardian) still sitting calmly in the same place and looking completely unconcerned. I’d shown him how to peel a limpet off a rock for bait, given him a pointer or two on how to cast the line, and received a hug as thanks. Then he used my shoulder as a lever to clamber to his feet and dashed off to tell his mother all about what he’d learned, who neither chided nor chastised her little boy (at least not in my hearing) for approaching (and hugging) a total solitary stranger.

About half an hour later, as the day grew warmer and the beach began to fill, I felt the call of a cold beer and packed up, wandering back to my beat up old Ford Sierra (I was between motorcycles at the time) and moved on. Yet the sudden pleasure of a hug from a completely strange child who I had never met before, never would know the name of, reminded me of my own humanity. My own instinctive need for human company. To ramp down my paranoia. To be part of a family and enjoy the innocent gift of unguarded affection.

This was over fifteen years ago. Since then I’ve married, helped steer two feisty stepdaughters through the uncertain waters of their teenage years, learned to smile and laugh a lot more, become a little more comfortable in my own skin; and somewhere along that path become a better man than I might have been. Not as cold, nor as driven. All because of that one unguarded, unsolicited hug.

So what’s the point Bill? All men are not predatory monsters? That there’s more to the male of the species than his sexual appetites? I suppose so, yes. Thinking about it, that single gesture was key to rediscovering my own understanding of Agape and Eros. Learning to differentiate properly between sacred and profane love. Discovering the love of family. Finding a new centre. Yet what I’d really, truly like to say, in public, is simply this;

Thank you.

For those interested in Weather

A rational view is online at the doughty Mr Watts web site with explanations of current extreme and not so extreme weather phenomena. Anthony has organised this exposition of meteorological expertise in an online live TV event to counter the rather less scientific assertions of a certain failed presidential candidate.

Youtube clips will be available in the next few days.

Popcorn futures skyrocket

There seems to be a lot of upset coming from our cousins down south about their recent elections, with an unprecedented array of states wanting to secede over Federal interference. Which is what started the last big kerfuffle. ‘States rights‘ was the original battle cry of the 19th century secessionists, which still echo today.

According to the LA Times, 50 states have submitted petitions to the White house formally requesting permission to secede from the Union. Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia and Texas have submitted petitions of over 25,000 each. Texas was over 100,000 at the last count. Which should come as no real surprise. Texans are well known as traditionally independent people.

There is also a much smaller counter movement who have petitioned the White House with the following plea; “please sign an executive order such that each American citizen who signed a petition from any state to secede from the USA shall have their citizenship stripped and be peacefully deported.” Yeah, like that’s going to work if someone was born in the USA. What are the petitioners suggesting? That hundreds of thousands of people are declared stateless and homeless just because they made lawful protest? First Amendment rights anyone? Besides, if those protestors ‘to be deported’ have families who have been resident since the 19th Century or are even native Americans, where would you deport them to? Canada? I bet our immigration people might have a few sharp words to say about that.

It’s a joke, of course. A poor taste partisan threat even. Only 10,000 signatures against several hundred thousand pro-secessionist so far. Although according to the White House web site “If a petition gets enough support, White House staff will review it, ensure it’s sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response.” Like consigning all those petitions to File 13 after making the usual noises about “Having given due consideration” etc. Ignore it and the problem will go away. All sound and fury, nothing more. Yet…. smoke and fires. From my reading of US Civil War history, I seem to recall reading this was how the last mess began.

According to this piece in the Digitaljournal, it’s not just sour grapes by disappointed Romney voters, as some might be tempted to think; the secession movement is more deeply rooted than that. It’s not about the perpetual dogfight of partisan politics at all, but derives from perceived blatant abuses of rights by the NDAA and TSA, amongst other federal authorities.

The Texans are not the only ones to be angered about the abuse of political power. All over the world there are similar sentiments. A need to break free from overweening authority and top down thinking driven interference. A desire to be liberated from Corporatist or Socialist regimes (The two are so similar it makes no real difference). From the British EU Referendum pressure groups to the Syrian militias; it’s all about the rights of the individual over unrepresentative authority.

In the West at least these things are slow to come to the boil, and the only realistic way to deal with them is to ease off the legislative pressure. Less state intervention. Fewer, not more laws. Less, and more human, enforcement.

As a keen student of history I’m not sure where the process will lead, but one thing is certain; this secession business isn’t going away any time soon. This side of the 49th Parallel popcorn futures are rocketing. Although don’t mention Quebec.

Wrong kind of ‘ists’

Over the past twenty or so years, we have been bombarded by apocryphal tales of the world being brought to an end by corrupt humanity because of small rises in atmospheric trace gas. Kind of “We’re all doomed, and it’s all your fault!” Especially via that paragon of virtues (Guffaw) the British Broadcasting Corporation. Despite a total lack of hard evidence, everything they seem to put out, from Eastenders to the Tellytubbies and the Weather Forecast contains the message that Carbon Dioxide will be the death of us all. Non-believers are ridiculed in BBC comedy programmes, patronised and damned with faint praise elsewhere in said organisations output.

We are informed that this is because the ‘majority of scientists’ agree on this topic. Not so. This is an overt lie. We are told that the BBC acted on the advice of ’28 scientists’ at a specific meeting. Now this assertion can be demonstrated to be an immense lake, a positive ocean, of bovine excretory splatter. These weren’t ‘Scientists’ at all. Although I will happily stand corrected if the BBC’s Head of Comedy of the time had specialist expertise in IR absorption or cloud formation and meteorology. The list, which the Beeb is reputed to have spent 100k of lawyers fees trying to keep secret, is available via this post at Wattsupwiththat. Read. Weep. Laugh. Get angry. This affair makes the allegations about pop star paedo’s look like a mere bagatelle. This is massive scale fraud. A deliberate attempt to mislead and misrepresent the public and so enrich a relatively small clique (Or are these the ‘Green jobs’ said activists tell us their enterprises will bring forth?). A flagrant ‘flipping the bird‘ at the BBC’s founding charter, and by proxy at anyone who has ever reacted to the constant doomsaying with a sceptical raised eyebrow.

Far from being overwhelmingly comprised of ‘scientists’ the list of attendees at this 2006 critical policy meeting appears to consist of Oil and Energy company executives (What! Big Oil! – Never!) and a whole bunch of eco-Activists. Barely three attendees have any credible scientific credentials, and even so these folks appear to have a built in bias. They’re just the wrong sort of ‘ist’.

Not that this should come as any surprise. The ‘science’ of Global Warming / Climate Change / Whatever has always been suspect. As even the most cursory examination of the global warming premise and its repeated failures of prediction will clearly show. It has come to the point where every time someone begins to rattle about this nonsense I automatically think ‘Piltdown Man‘. Yet we have taxes based upon this flawed premise?

Smart Meters and Saltspring Island

Recently, that most solid of strongholds against the forced installations of the much distrusted ‘Smart Meters’, Saltspring Island, has seen the beginning of a blitz by Corix installation teams. On the 22nd of October, 10 Corix installation vans were seen on the ferry to begin the three week program of installations. Whilst I cannot help but sympathise with those who have these pieces of politically expedient technology thrust upon them, my irony meter has just gone off the scale.

For a long time now, Saltspring and certain of the surrounding Gulf Islands have been undergoing a political sea change. People who dislike the ‘poisons’ of Globalism and Urban living have been migrating there, and if this Op-ed from the Victoria Times Colonist is to be believed, staged some form of takeover. According to author Elizabeth Nickson, they are the ones responsible for preventing development of Island resources via the Island Trust. Nothing must change, goes the ideology, because mankind pollutes our island Earth, and therefore anything resembling industry is very bad indeed. Learning to live without technology is thought to be the way forward. ‘Low Carbon’ is the desired state of being. The Islands even elected a Green Party MP to further this end.

Okay, fine; they choose to live on the Gulf Islands, they choose the lifestyle. No issue with that. However, what raises an ironic smile is that many of the very people pushing the Anthropogenic Global Warming Agenda are those who emphatically don’t want a technology intended to be part of the ‘solution’ to ‘Global Warming’. Shades of the biter bit, methinks.

Whatever the outcome, I do know that the new crop of ‘smart meters’ only have a projected working life of ten years, as opposed to the ‘old tech’ meter lifespan of several decades. Word is that never mind ten years, seven seems to be the median for smart meters. So a rolling replacement program will have to be implemented, and you can be damned sure that the advocates for the ‘Low carbon’ lifestyle won’t want to help pick up the tab for that.

Real life

The blog is taking fifth place to real life right now. Life analogue supersedes life digital, and at present there aren’t enough hours in the working day. Not that I’ve got anything I want to write about here at present. I’ve stopped reading and watching the news on the premise that mainstream outlets deliberately structure their content to annoy. Whatever is happening in the world will happen anyway, without any input from me.

Arbitrary rises in gas prices? Everyone is hacked off about those.
European economic collapse impending? Not surprised.
US elections? That’s down to the US electorate.
The non-existence of man made global warming? Told you so.
Riots? Not here there aren’t.
Poverty? Starvation? War? People finding excuses to be shitty to each other? Yep, plenty. But not much I can do about that. Too busy trying to keep my own head above water.

In short; I cannot be my brothers keeper because he’ll have to shift for himself like the rest of us. Not much I can do and I’m not overly inclined to do it. Tell you the truth I’ve been reading P J O’Rourke’s “All the trouble in the world” again, and nothing really changes.

Also delving into Nietzsche and Sartre for the first time in over two decades, and finding out that many people who previously derived their world view from Nietzsche have been hoodwinked. Apparently Nietzsche’s sister put all the nationalistic and anti-semitic crap into his published works after he died. So I’m giving the old boy a philosophical second reading with some of the newer translations. Starting with Safranski’s biography. This may take some time.

Ergo, I’ve cranked the outside volume down and am taking a big time out. No doubt the world will still be here when I get back. If it isn’t I will be asking serious questions. Play nice now. TTFN

BC Madness

I’ve been busy of late; too busy to even think of blogging, but the following items reinforce my long held belief that sanity is at a premium throughout humanity.

Firstly, the ongoing clashes between Provincial Premiers over the Enbridge pipeline. Alberta wants it built, but BC will not allow the building without cash up front to fritter away on the ruling parties pet projects, only to find that the cupboard is bare when ‘spill cleanup money’ is really needed. Duh. What happened to ‘the polluter pays’ for any cleanup? BC would make far more from an increased tax take from all the money and employment a new refinery would generate than simply ending up stiffed for fees if the price of oil drops due to increased availability.

Secondly, an American dumping 100 tonnes of Iron Sulphate into the Pacific near to Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands for those with old maps). Supposedly this is a ‘carbon mitigation’ project, but one that violates BC anti pollution legislation, a number of other Canadian Federal statutes, and Environmental UN mandates. Oh yes, and seeing as the person who bumped the iron sulphate is an American, the EPA may well have a say. Plankton blooms of the scale already created may well be doing serious harm because they reduce the oxygen content of the local ocean. Well silly old me for thinking that Fish need that dissolved oxygen in order to live. Far from increasing the Salmon population, the effects may well prove the opposite. Read this piece by a Salmon Farmer about Plankton blooms and the harm they can do to fish life. There are grounds for serious concern here.

iDemocracy

Have just been forwarded an email from Guido Fawkes about Douglas Carswell’s latest idea to fix Britain, and perhaps the world’s woes. Regrettably, brilliant man that Douglas is, he will be mostly ignored. His plan to fix Britain was a tour de force, but destined for the scrap heap of good ideas, not because it isn’t good, because it is; but because those in power are there, and they’re staying there, so the buggins turn of two and a bit party politics will continue.

iDemocracy is on Amazon. Worth buying and reading? Almost certainly. The ideas Douglas often espouses are generally well thought through and practical. Regrettably, the status quo of civil service and establishment will not permit such radical paradigm shifts. As for the populace? As has been mooted over at Anna Raccoons, the UK is a sick country, a welfare junkie due to go cold turkey because there has been no real money to feed their addictions for years.

Well, that’s all from me. Just thought I’d drop by and look in at the old place. TTFN

No wonder

High tide at lunchtime today, and am going down to the waters edge to play with my little friends the Smallmouth Bass. It’s a fair bargain; I give them a free feed, one or two of them get a free ride to the surface before I let them go. None of them are big enough for the pan, so why not? I use barbless hooks. Win-win.

Fishing is a more a contemplative than physical exercise anyway. It’s why people do it. The luxury of time to think without distraction. It was a zen thing before zen and all that complicated yoga twisting and bending came along.  In male terms at least, fishing is to zen what yoga is to the garden shed.  Both are designed to fulfill the same purpose, to free the mind for contemplation. Something which is in short supply nowadays.

There are far too many strident voices with agendas spouting falsehoods. From Politicians in hock to every vested interest and lobbyist under the sun to big Eco, with its original wide eyed idealism bought and sold by those with major financial interests in the currently flatlining ‘Carbon trading’ markets. Everybody is shouting, but oh so few are actually sitting back and doing some serious critical listening.   Apart from a few ‘lunatic’ bloggers.  Then again, we’re all ‘conspiracy nuts’ aren’t we? Tinfoil hats on permanent and prominent display. Candidates for the rubber room to a man. Yeah, right.

I haven’t quite got to the point where I need to fact check everything everybody else says, but it is very tempting.  Honesty and integrity have been devalued to the point where ordinary day to day folk might be active practitioners, but the higher* you go, the less these qualities seem in evidence.  An appeal to authority as a means of proof can therefore be seen to be less than adequate.  White lies were once seen as a necessary means of smoothing social intercourse, (and also as a very necessary means of smoothing the path to sexual intercourse) but now the falsehoods are so common, it’s easy to become overtly cynical in record time**.  Search engines may be the discerning readers friend here, but remember, just because it’s written down doesn’t make it true. Trust only the evidence. Which so many fail to look for.

No wonder the world’s in a mess. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Hi ho, it’s a gorgeous BC day and I’m off to enjoy it. TTFN

* Some, including myself, might posit that the adjective ‘higher’ when applied to human hierarchies should have the caveat; “The higher you seek to climb, the lower you have to sink.” firmly attached, like those interminable warning labels on half the hardware in the shops.
**Just as an aside; I wonder whether there is a ‘speed of cynicism’ like in ‘speed of light’?  Some form of self limiting factor?

Expatriate expostulations from Canada; a.k.a. A Sarcastic man abroad

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 286 other followers

%d bloggers like this: