Tag Archives: Food

Water and associated topics

Following a spirited discussion with Furor Teutonicus in the comments, while this week looks quiet workwise I thought I’d do some following up on said discussion regarding Fluoride and other environmental factors.

There’s also a meme out in the wilds of medialand, unsubstantiated by actual medical evidence, that in order to ‘stay healthy’ people should drink ‘eight glasses of water’ per day. Eight fluid ounces in each. Sixty four fluid ounces. Three and a bit pints. Influenced by this garbage, everywhere you go there are people in shops, offices, on the streets with their dinky little bottles of Peckham Spring which may well be sourced from the Public Water Supply.

As for what’s in that water, watch the video of what Dr David Kennedy has to say about Fluoride in the public water supply. Especially about not being able to get rid of fluoride salts with boiling, activated carbon filtration, ‘cold filtering’ or even ‘reverse osmosis’ (Unless it’s the high pressure variety, which is expensive). ‘Pure’? I should cocoa (Derisive snort).

As for my little ‘Peckham Spring’ jibe, well me darlings, you’d be amazed at how many companies source their supposedly ‘pure’ water straight from the same sources as the public supply. Not all of them, but not a tenth, or an eighth, but over a quarter of all that bottled water on the grocery and supermarket shelves, possibly more, is likely exactly the same as what comes out of your tap. And that’s even before doing the individual testing and number crunching on how much and what contains fluoride salts. There’s just no readily collectable evidence. But you can bet your boots that the companies making a fat buck off it aren’t telling. Never mind the allegations of how much bacterial contamination there is in the supposedly ‘pure’ bottled stuff. Even if your bottled water has ‘0% fat’ on the label. I mean, ‘low fat’ water? Who knew?

Now to the meat of the topic, which is what is actually in your water supply, and what, if any deleterious effects it might have. Or even the long term effects of sub-toxic dosage and the risks of removing those dosages.

According to this animal based study, there is no detectable cancer risk associated with prolonged low level exposure to fluoride salts, although some osteosclerosis was observed. Well, you might ask, what about the documented neurological effects? It’s true that in acute cases of fluoride poisoning, headache, tremors, muscle spasm, tetanic contractions, hyperactive reflexes, seizures, and muscle weakness can result. Acute toxicity levels are 5mg per kg of body weight, so for a seventy five kilo human you’d have to swallow over 375mg in one sitting to get very sick indeed, very quickly. There’s also a high probability that kind of dose would be fatal. Women, because the average UK female bodyweight is a tad over 70kg, would be most susceptible. For those under 60kg, the acute toxicity level kicks in much earlier. Especially if the immune system is depressed or simply busy with other matters.

Now if you’re one of these people sipping two litres of water a day under the delusion that this is ‘healthy’, up until May 2015 in fluoride using areas of the USA, you might be ingesting as much as 5mg of fluoride salts a day from water alone, or in the case of a 60kg woman, a sixtieth of an acute dosage. That’s without the fluoride salts in toothpaste and bathing water. More if dietary supplements like multivitamins are being regularly taken. For the sake of a hypothetical argument, let’s round up that daily dosage (with dietary supplements) to 8mg, which is only 2mg below the maximum permissible 10mg per day overall dose. So, not quite enough to bring on acute symptoms, but as any fule kno, small doses over long periods of time can result in significant ill effects. Mostly they fly below the radar, not flagging up any immediate concerns, but can exhibit long term consequences.

For most of us this isn’t a problem; we don’t chug anything like eight glasses a day. Nor should we. Too much flushing of the system raises another Cerberus head. Constantly flushing the salt out of ones body can lead to things like mild hyponatraemia (Low blood salt). Which carries yet another set of health risks. We need sodium. If our bodies didn’t need a specific amount of salt, we wouldn’t have developed kidneys. No matter that some people want to eliminate dietary salt altogether, which is not only stupid, it’s secure ward barking.

What has been suggested is, rather like repeatedly getting shitfaced while pregnant leads to foetal alcohol syndrome, excess ingestion of fluoridated water while pregnant may be associated with the uptick in cases of Autism and Attention Deficit Disorders in children. As yet, there are few reputable studies to indicate whether this is true or not. Other suggested causes of Autism have indicted certain household cleaning agents or low level infections during pregnancy and a whole heap of other potential agents.

What is proven is that low level doses of fluoride in the water supply are beneficial as far as teeth are concerned and getting rid of fluoridated water altogether is like refusing vaccination, cutting off your nose to spite your face. However, in light of emerging evidence, reducing the fluoride dosage from 1.5mg / litre to 0.7mg, (15 down to 7 parts per million) because of the toxic nature of fluoride salts, can be seen as a good move. Although your dentist might not be convinced. But then, it took a while to find out that your shiny silver looking mercury amalgam fillings could be poisonous.

Information Sources (amongst others).
TOXICOLOGICAL PROFILE FOR FLUORIDES, HYDROGEN FLUORIDE, AND FLUORINE
U.S. Lowers Recommended Fluoride Levels in Drinking Water from 1.5mg / litre to 0.7 mg / litre. Web MD Monday, April 27, 2015.
UK fluoride levels remain at 1.5mg per litre. NHS web site.

Squirrel!

Over at Longriders, I picked up the story of UK Government ‘health’ advice for people between 40 and 60 to get more sleep so as not to burden the ‘wonderful’ (Snarky guffaw) NHS with more of our unwelcome ickiness than necessary. What is it with these people? Don’t they know there’s a pensions crisis? Too many people (Including my good self) who are hurtling towards old age and presumed infirmity for the nations finances to afford. Not that I intend to use or expect much from the system. I have my own resources, and intend to keep them well out of the reach of HMRC through every legal avenue available. Yet I’m left with the thought, if ‘unhealthy’ living causes people to pop their clogs in an untimely manner, isn’t that a good thing, economically speaking? Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow ye certainly die, yes? Fewer ‘seniors’ pottering around with their walkers, using ‘precious’ health resources, nonchalantly trying to avoid the questing gaze of the old grim reaper. Good, not so good? You tell me. If the options are between dying of a massive coronary at age 79, or facing the mercy of the Liverpool care pathway at age 81, it’s not much of a choice, is it?

There’s a lot of contradictory ‘advice’ that squitters out of the anus of Government propaganda via the lamestream media. Save, don’t save, spend, don’t spend. This is bad for you, oops, no it’s not but this is, oh sorry, wrong again. The Earth is warming out of control and it’s all your fault but if we tax you more it’ll be fine don’t you worry, but we’ll spend the tax on things like ‘outreach’ groups and other pork barrel promises to buy minority votes. To which my response is always WTF? Even if the lamestream told me the Earth was about to be hit by a ten mile wide asteroid I wouldn’t believe them. I’d be out in the back yard at night trying to spot it with my 20×50’s and a nice big mug of hot chocolate. The only people I’d actually believe would be the first hand sources like the less hysterical astrophysicists and Astronomers who can prove they know their stuff about orbital mechanics.

As for my Canadian GP, he’s a bit old school which I’m quite happy with. He doesn’t lecture or fuss over the latest directive, just deals with whatever problem we come in with. Which is quite refreshing. “Yeah, that’s healing nicely.” He said, checking over Mrs S’s busted wing having read the Orthopedic surgeons report from the rehab clinic. No other questions like “How much do you eat, drink, sleep, smoke and shit?” Our health is our concern. His job is to fix it when it’s broke. Which is as it should be.

For our part, we emulate the Squirrel. Building up resources against the Winter of infirmity and old age so the state doesn’t have to.

And we have a lively local population of tree rats. Mostly Greys, but there is a tribe of Blacks across and down the street. One of the Greys regularly makes a racket using our front guttering as a rodents rat run from one side of the property to the next, then three others which have been busily raiding next doors Walnut tree up to three nuts at a time each. Don’t believe me? Here’s three shots I took late yesterday afternoon.Squirrel raider 0 Here’s one, on his first Walnut raid of the day, legging it across the carport roof outside my office window as though all the voraciousness of the world were on his heels. Which for a squirrel is quite possible. They’re a prey species for just about everything short of Mule Deer.
Squirrel raider 1 Now see the little tinker, taking three(!) nuts at a time off to some store for what may be a harsh Winter. It might be a rerun of 2013/4 where we saw icicles as big as Elephant tusks as far south as Langford and Esquimalt. So, these squirrels are obviously ‘prepping’. Which is a sensible precaution, and probably why there are so many healthy looking squirrels in the neighbourhood.
Squirrel raider 2In this shot, here is our little interloper, selecting the biggest nut he can find (I think it’s a he, but with squirrels it’s hard to tell). For my part I am emulating the Squirrels provision gathering. Nothing fancy, just basics. Rendering Landladies abundance of tomatoes into litres of a very nice pasta sauce which reside in the freezer with the curry and soups. Picking up flour and yeast when it’s on a deal to bake my own artisan breads when necessity dictates. Squirreling comestibles into storage so that when relatives descend upon us from across the globe this September and December, they will leave for warmer climes (Australia, Tanzania and elsewhere) with full stomachs and happy memories while we will have spare in the larder for the cold months from January to March. All you have to do is keep your stocks rotated, and Robert is one’s Father’s brother.

Not that I believe there’s going to be any worldwide disaster, just that things will carry on being a bit tighter than they should be, and the wise man will always emulate the Squirrel, putting a little by in the Summer for when the hard times inevitably come.

Fifty shades of…. bacon

Meandering idly through the comment streams of various articles in the dear old Barclay Brothers Beano (I was bored and in need of a laugh), I came upon an article about how children see online porn. From the perspective of an upper middle class columnist, who discusses all manner of things with her children. Which didn’t shock me. Nor did the fact that 13 year olds had viewed online hardcore porn or gone “Euuww!” at some of it’s contorted gruntulations. The online stuff is no worse than what we read in the cloakrooms at school at that age, and kids are setting out on that particular voyage of discovery around then anyway, so no biggie.

What tweaked a nerve, the real perversion of the article struck in the opening paragraphs, where the author confessed to having put salad cream on their bacon sandwiches, which I thought sounded a little degenerate. In ‘big floury baps’ no less, which is in itself rather suggestive. Being a dull old traditionalist I use HP Sauce myself on flax bread with my morning bacon, but am quite tolerant of those who will add tomato ketchup, or even Tabasco to their morning pick me up protein blast. Even on their morning bacon and egg ‘banjo’ or in a burrito. But Salad Cream? Well, that’s definitely a new one on me, and I thought I was pretty damn sophisticated and unshockable.

Oh what a curdled mess we cast when first we practice breaking fast. I’m told that perverted sexual practices, like incest, run in families, so I’m not utterly stunned by these revelations of food porn by a journalistic cove. They will have picked up this preference at an early age. Possibly from a progressive parent, or not-so-distant-as-they-should-be Uncle or Aunt. Perhaps even at boarding school. Which is where a lot of upper middle class minds are first warped into thinking they know what’s best for the rest of us.

Deviant baconSo this leads us to the really big questions. Back or streaky? Smoked or not? Dry cure or not? Greasy or ‘murdered’? Fried or grilled (oh all right, ‘broiled’ then). Each have their own advantages and pleasures. What type of bacon works best with this depraved concoction? Are you a plain white person as far as bread goes, or gluten free, wholegrain, wholewheat, bun, bap, hoagie, tortilla, rye or even croissant? What does this say about you as a person? Bluff traditionalist with a side smorgasbord of sophistication, or an anything goes tie me down to the kitchen table for a good spanking matron pervert who has coleslaw in their bacon butty? Horrified shudder. Enquiring minds would like to know. Especially as we all like a good chuckle.

As for the Bacon Lettuce and Tomato deviancy, sorry, but that’s beyond the pale. BLT’s are a mere marketing ploy to give customers the minimum of bacon for the maximum price. The lettuce and tomato have no real nutritive value, belonging to the fictional ‘five a day’ fascism and can therefore be considered no more than inert filler. My take is this; if Inuit can go for months and years without lettuce or tomato, then so can I.

Update: I have sourced (or should that be ‘sauced’) the necessary ingredients. The great experiment happens tomorrow (Monday) around 8am PST (Noonish UK time)

Update on the Update: Overall, I think I’ll stick to HP sauce on my morning bacon sandwich, because while I found the Bacon with salad cream butty okay, in that I wouldn’t turn my nose up at it, I prefer the ‘traditional’ condiment. Bit of an anticlimax. Sorry pals, but there you go.

Succulents, Sunshine, Sangria and Sushi

Hangover cat Have been having a jolly nice time away from the keyboard, only visiting the Interwebs twice yesterday. Have been introducing Mrs S to the delights of Sangria after a day and a half (Seriously, it was worse than shoe shopping) looking for and poking around garden centres for the ‘right’ pots and compost for our increasing family of Succulent plants, specifically Jade plants, and more generally three other species. Our Jade plant was looking a little bit sad, having out-grown the pot it inhabited. Sangria is quite nice, and does tend to slip down the old throat without much of a moral struggle. The cat in the picture can be considered a clue to my current physical state.

Notwithstanding, I really am developing a serious taste for Sushi. Out here on the Pacific rim we get the some really top notch stuff. Yet if anyone asked me as recently as ten years ago, if I would eat raw fish, I would have laughed in their face. Now I respond with enthusiasm. Sushi, sure. Great stuff. Pass the Soy sauce.

Am further amusing myself watching the local squirrels raiding the last of the figs off the tree outside my window. Our local Raven population are now so officially full of the crop that they can no longer fly. Or is that the sunshine? Because it’s on days like these that you could almost believe in man made global warming. Gorgeous weather. Although I hear it’s not so hot in the UK, where the traditional British Summer (1 day of sunshine, six rain and gloom) is in full swing. Do I sound smug? Well, just a bit. Over here in BC the weather is the exact opposite. Ten days of sun, a day and a half of rain. Rinse, repeat until October.

While I’ve been away I see a lot of otherwise sensible people have been getting highly excised about the death of a wild predator at the hands of an otherwise inoffensive Dentist (All North American dentists are fundamentally inoffensive, it’s a prerequisite of their profession) from Minnesota. All I have to say is; what are you people on? It’s not okay to make death threats against people you disagree with. You don’t like hunting that helps pay for game conservation? Tough. Now build a fkucing bridge and get over it FFS! As for some of the sad stereotypes that were being bandied around by people who should really know better; call yourselves freedom loving seekers of truth? Really? As for the anthropomorphism, giving an animal a human name does not change its nature. As anyone who has invaded the zoo enclosure of a predator species will understand. Once their wounds have healed, if, of course they are lucky enough to survive the experience. Even the brightest domestic pet is not human, it does not think like a human, it’s needs and priorities are not human. Anyone thinking that non humans are simply fur covered people is more barking than the Yorkshire Terrier our landlady periodically plays host to. Yappy bloody thing.

Well, that’s it for now. I’m off to get a new 64Gb MicroSD card for my Samsung plus a few other office bits and pieces we’ve identified a need for. So TTFN. Have a truly great day. Possibly.

Still here then?

Well, we’re back. Enjoying a nice cool breezy day or three after the all-encompassing heat of the last seven. Mrs S and I are indulging our new found tastes for things like ‘Moscow Mule‘ cocktails. The ingredients for which are Vodka, lime juice and Ginger beer (Not ale, not enough Ginger). Very quaffable. Mrs S does like Cosmopolitans, but we didn’t have any of the right liqueur (Cointreau) in house, so I had to adapt and improvise with Stolichnaya. On its own, Ginger beer with a shot of Roses lime cordial over ice is very nice, but add Vodka and a generous squeeze of real lime and well, you’ll have to try it for yourself.

The various global crises keep grumbling on. The Greeks constantly wanting more money to pay their old age pensions, then shifting the bills onto someone else continues. The Chinese economic woes. Iran getting nuclear technology so they can build atomic bombs (That’s not going to end well). A surprise medical bill for four thousand Euro’s that should have been paid by our insurance company which has led to several frantic phone calls. Pension paperwork coming at us from all directions. Oh what jolly bloody fun. I’m not even of pensionable age yet, and they’re going to change the rules yet again. Good job I won’t be relying on a pension then. Hey ho. We’re taking it all in our stride.

Well, we’ve had a thoroughly nice time in the USA, apart from a few navigation hiccups on Saturday because our SatNav had a minor nervous breakdown caused by all the roadworks off the I-5 into south Tacoma. We had a wander around the American Car Museum and saw these. American 1930s classics Which cost the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of modern dollars in their day, such were the costs of hand coach building, even during the height of the American depression of the 1920’s and 30’s. Oh yes, and from the triumph of hope over experience department, these examples of Electric vehicles; Electric cars from the 20th century Their modern descendants only possible because of massive subsidies. While electric cars are superficially economical, they will always remain a fringe technology until the fuel / refuel issues can be fully addressed, or failing that, a small molten salt nuclear reactor, hydrogen or other non battery technology becomes practical for personal transport. You can probably hear the sound of my breath not being held from half a world away. Until a long time hence we’re probably stuck with the reliable(ish) Internal Combustion Engine. Seven litre Chevvy CamaroWhich on the plus side, has given us beauties like this Seven litre Chevrolet Camaro. It couldn’t match something like a Porsche on European roads of course, but on North American highways, it has the legs and legroom to just eat up those endless miles.

For those who protest about how much energy those naughty Gringos use, they forget the large distances between towns. You can walk down to the store to get the groceries, but that walk will take a long, long time. They also forget that continental North America is a bloody big place, and therefore tends to suffer from more extremes. Everything is bigger over here. Weather, distances, trees, and also the average fast food restaurant customer. We are talking three hundred pounds and upwards.

Anyway, back home in the more environmentally friendly land of British Columbia, I’ve just been given about twenty pounds of fresh figs which I have to find a use for. Do I make some preserve? Chop a few then soak in Vodka? Make Fig rolls (yum). Put a few out to ripen in my office? Apparently there’s a trick with a dab of Extra Virgin Olive Oil which hastens ripening. See these posts on a gardening forum. Treating figs with motor oil, we have been assured, does not work. At least if you want something vaguely edible afterwards. I may do all these things. There may be a progress report.

Bye for now.

Road trip, day five

On our way again, this time on the northbound leg of our little roadtrip around the northwastern US of A. Highway 101 all the way up to the fleshpots north of Astoria for a meal out and overnight stay before moving on to Tacoma for a couple of evenings, thence back to BC via the Coho ferry.

Restricted viewingIn the previous post, I made mention that the coastline of Southern Oregon is ‘pay-per-view’. As far as accessing most of the beaches is concerned, this is true, as in order to stop, no matter how briefly, in one of the National Parks that line this side of the USA, you need to have purchased a pass. We hadn’t, and seeing as there was no ticket booth at the places we entered, we simply did a 180 and went off in search of ‘beach access’, which we eventually found. Unfortunately the north wind was blowing, whipping the dry sand up into miniature sandscapes up and down the kilometres of beach. This particular stretch of beach looked to be suffering the curse of septic tank runoff from a nearby resort and a sizeable stretch of holiday homes. Which rather took the shine off things. It was either that or hire a dune buggy or ATV, which Mrs S would not be allowed to ride because of her recent injury. So we moved on.

Further north on the 101, there are more places to park to enjoy the huge expanses of yellow sand, the coastal highway squiggling more closely to the shoreline along mile after mile of almost deserted beach. Being a European trained driver, I was happily throwing our little SUV through tight corners which would not disgrace an English country A-road and wondering why there was no-one in my rear view mirror, even though I hadn’t been speeding (Honestly officer – I was being ever so good). Between Florence and Cannon Beach, Oregon (Well worth a stopover. Incredible beach. Try the Warren Inn for lunch) it’s a joy. Especially on such a sunny day as today. Great driving, good food, and the Universe totally failing to go ‘Foom’. The more northerly beaches are also great for kite flying, sunbathing or surfing. Although the wind needs to shift into the West to produce the best Pacific Breakers.

One of the things I’ve also noticed in passing have been visiting political campaigners. No doubt organising support for next years Presidential Elections. No Republicans as yet, but the the ‘Obama Mama’s’ (I think that’s who they are) whose vehicles are graced with a metallic ‘O’ inside the rear window, and a ‘Clintonite’ sporting a Hilary Clinton bumper sticker have been in evidence. No doubt infiltrating local meetings with their forced letterbox smiles and promises. (Never trust someone who smiles ingratiatingly all the time – they’re up to something.) Their vehicles all being late model and fairly new looking. They’re also mostly black, the vehicles that is. Something I found a trifle sinister. Considering the mess the golf pro currently ensconced in the White House has made of things, the thought of another Democrat in the form of a Clinton in the hot seat must make the blood of many Americans (and anyone else on the planet – apart from the more rabid mullahs) run icy cold. I mean, come on; even Sarah Palin would be a better choice for the first woman president of the USA. That’s not an edifying prospect either.

Never mind; as regards meals out, Mrs S and I had a minor culinary epiphany last night. We dined at a very nice seafood place where the fish was not encased in batter or smothered in cheese sauce. Instead of dessert, I voiced the desire for a Martini to round off what was a very pleasant repast. Mrs S concurred and we ordered two fairly dry fancy Martinis off the menu instead of the usual ‘death by chocolate’ so full of caloric energy it could power a Saturn 5 booster into orbit. Which turned out to be a good move. We walked back to our hotel with a lightness of step and sense of mild euphoria, rather than simply feeling weighed down and a little over indulged. Thus we have decided, in future, instead of dessert we’ll have Martinis instead. We’ll also forget wine with out meal, as that would rather be gilding the lily. Which has the dual effect of lowering the bill whilst at the same time making us look like a pair of visiting sophisticates (Snarf). Who knows? Perhaps we’ll start a trend.

On the topic of what to eat here in the Northwestern USA. Coastal eateries do what they call ‘Steamer Clams’ which I think are nicer than Moules Mariniere, which I’m also quite partial to. Try them. If you’re not professionally allergic to seafood, they are a treat. The best places manage to clean these delicacies so thoroughly that there is no detectable sand in them, which can put a crimp in your seafood dining experience.

Last item today; if you do one thing in your life. If you cannot gallop horses through the surf on a deserted Irish beach or run naked along a seemingly endless West Highland strand, screaming your ecstasy for the sheer exhilaration of being alive, hire an SUV and take a drive up and down Long Beach, Washington, USA. As Mrs S and I did this evening before sundown. Just look up how long it is. Go on. Do not under any circumstances take my word or anyone else’s for this. Twenty eight smegging miles. Okay, the beach speed limit is twenty five miles per hour (A beach with a speed limit, my life already), and bits of it are off limits during the Summer months but frankly I don’t care. You can drive further along Padre Island, Texas (One hundred and thirty miles) but it’s going to take a full construction crew with earth movers to eradicate the grin currently planted upon my face.

What can I say, I’m easily pleased.

And away we go!

We’re off! Away from conferences and nitpicking fine detail, away from the smoke shrouded hills of upper BC. Away from the terrible Vegetarian food which even some stalwart Vegans on the team were calling tasteless. Maybe the conference won’t be held at that place next year. I think the only thing stopping a lynch mob being formed for the catering staff is that lynching is so un-Canadian. Although from some of the grimaces I observed, there were definitely a few people who could have been persuaded.

On the final day we scooted off after the last meeting, only to run into a four hour delay, not at the US border, which we were expecting, but on the Sea to Sky southbound, where two motorcyclists got hurt hitting a Jeep Cherokee that had allegedly run out of petrol and had stopped in the outside lane. Considering the vehicle couldn’t have long passed a Gas station, that seems like someone just hadn’t bothered to fuel up, or was hoping to make Vancouver on just fumes. Who knows? We just pulled aside to let the emergency services though, wandered around, chatted, read books, walked dogs, watched some kids playing catch and in some cases seethed quietly until everyone had to do a three point turn, backtrack to the previous junction, then go up and around a couple of sleepy little suburbs until we were decanted back on the main drag. After that, the five minutes wait at the Peace Arch was a breeze.

Impressions of the USA so far? Mostly positive. Upstate Washington reminded me of our 2007 trip across Southern Ontario. To celebrate, we tucked into a steak each. Real food! Just a wonderful slightly bloody steak and salad each chased down by a modest dusty Californian Red, but to us we felt we’d escaped from dietary jail. There was rain too. A blessed strinkling. Just enough to remove the dust from the air. Free at last. Free at last! I think. Maybe. Probably.

Not found in the guide book

We’re all settled in now at our little Paris apartment. Stumbling over our rusty (In my case almost seized solid from disuse) French. But we’re making an effort. Which is probably why the waiting staff, and everyone generally, have been so nice to us so far. So any rudeness, intransigence or sarcasm will have to be overheard. Drat. How am I to learn?

Never mind. Last night Mrs S and I dropped by a Fondue house. Specifically this one. Which was an education. Now in all the guide books and Rick Steves / Anthony Bourdin YouTubes we’ve watched, the art of Fondue is rarely covered. And it is an art. From the well known Fondue pot (Not those prissy little stainless steel things, but the big, fcuk off cast iron variety) to the oddity of ‘Raclette‘ where a third of a 6kg (13-14lbs for those of an imperial bent) wheel of semi soft Swiss cheese is fixed in a weird looking rig and subjected to a heating element so it melts, to be scraped off onto bread, or meats, pickles or anything. At the time we didn’t know what these strange objects were, so like the cowards we sometimes are, or in this case still too jet lagged to really enjoy things, opted for a salad and a half bottle of decent red while we peoplewatched.

For my smoking friends on my sidebar, as for the ‘smoking ban’ so rigorously prosecuted back at home, lets just say the French have perfected the art of the shrug. That gentle juggling of shoulders which means “So what?” Which is the attitude applied to the smoking ban, now enshrined in law throughout much of Europe and the Anglophone West. None of this ‘No smoking by anyone near anything anywhere or even looking at a cigarette at all- ever’ rules. M’sieur wishes to smoke? Just outside the door, under that nice snug little awning out of the immediate draught. Okay? As Mrs S and I had elected to eat at an outside table, the waitress, determined to practice her English on us, seemed surprised that we didn’t smoke, and there were children under five at the next table! Mon dieu! Call Les Pompiers! (Fire brigade) Whose van was round the corner while the lads were bunking off for a quiet Gauloise at the next Bar Tabac.

Paris isn’t a clean place. It’s busy and inexplicably dusty at present. Which if you’re overly houseproud or germ phobic might lead to a touch of the vapours. Off the main boulevards, down the side streets it’s all narrow sidewalks and busy people. Motorcycles and scooters parked on every space unoccupied by cafe tables. It’s hard to take your time unless you do so assertively. Give people room to get by and you’ll do fine. You will get bumped and barged if you’re in the way. Get used to it. You’re a touriste and therefore fair game. The locals walk briskly and with purpose. They have places to be, there’s not much room, and if you’re in the way; move it, sucker. Pavement (Sidewalk) dawdling and window shopping is best reserved for those days when the locals are still in bed or at work.

As we headed from Gare Du Nord via taxi, at Place De La Republic there was a noisy demonstration of sorts going on. More like a concert than a demo. According to our driver it was a strike. When asked who by or what it was about, our man said he didn’t know or care. “There’s one every day.” He explained as he squeezed our cab through gaps with barely a cards breadth between them. Man, I am glad we didn’t hire a car. Paris driving is no place for the faint of heart.

BTW; today’s post was written while wearing my PJ trouser’s and brand new blue paisley dressing gown. I may go out wearing a bow tie this evening. I have brought two, one formal black and the other a genteel metallic paisley pattern picked up before we left London. Just in case Mrs S steers me into an establishment where ties are required. At which juncture I will defiantly tie it in sight of the Maitre ‘D (None of these cheap ready mades for me – no style whatsoever).

Hey, I’m on holiday. Meanwhile, back over the Channel, some sore losers have been kicking off because the voters didn’t see things their way. Ah, les pauvre petits. Wnakers. Bless.

Still feeling a little carp

Well wasn’t that fun young Bill? Well, actually a clear and resounding ‘No’. Not a fun bout of the dreaded Lurgi at all. My chest is still a little sore, with leftover muscle aches from all the coughing and spluttering which has seen me consigned to the spare bedroom for over a week. “One of us has got to get some sleep dear.” Said my good lady wife, pointedly shutting the door on my palsied frame.

The green chunks have faded to clear, my snottiness quotient is now at more or less normal levels, and I am a functioning human being again. Feeling thankful that bouts of this kind are few and far between. Still feeling a little carp, but that’s to be expected.

Feeling a little Carp Normal sarcasm levels will be restored as soon as I’ve got a handle on what they should be anyway.

In the meantime, doubt is being cast (yet again) on those ‘Government Health Guidelines’ this time on salt. When you actually read the article and see the various assumptions the original researchers made, the light should dawn. The prodnoses have it wrong yet again. Or should we say ‘as usual’?

Soup day

Every so often on non-work days, maybe once every month I have what I call a ‘cooking day’. Not really a day, usually just four hours maximum, where I cast my cares aside and focus on a manual task while my subconscious does all the heavy lifting. At the moment this is because I have a knotty legal problem which I am reluctant to hand on to my legal Piranhas because it involves a family member. However, I have firmly informed said family member that while we may not quite be in the last chance saloon, I’m definitely outside the door perusing the menu. As a last ditch measure I’ve enlisted the assistance of other family members who are trying to intercede on my behalf and talk some sense into him. I’m also trying to stay away from Mrs S, who is stressing over pension transfers, future payments and UK tax forms. Not only that, but she’s being clueless about the document feed settings on the office scanner. All the information is but a web search away, and she’s giving me grief about it. The kitchen is currently my only refuge from the stress and I’m trying to utilise some downtime in a positive way. Then there’s our trip to Paris to organise.

Notwithstanding; today I’ve been making soup. Two varieties; firstly Carrot and Coriander, then Asparagus and Parmesan. Seven litres of the stuff are cooling, ready to go into the freezer. I picked up the ingredients for less than fifteen bucks, so they’re cheap eats. They’re also jolly good for vegetarian(ish) type soups and should see us until the warm weather arrives.

For the Carrot and Coriander you will need;
5lb carrots
Two medium onions
1 bunch fresh Coriander (a.k.a Cilantro) A handful
A large teaspoon of bacon grease (I did say Vegetarian-ish didn’t I?)
Half a teaspoon of dried chili flakes or 2 dried chilis
Half a teaspoon of garlic powder or three cloves of garlic (that’s three segments of a bulb)
A teaspoon of salt
Black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon cornflour
Four litres of water (Maybe more, maybe less)
A large pasta pan
A liquidiser or blender
A second large saucepan
A frying pan

Put the frying pan on a low heat, add the bacon grease, fine chop the two onions and drop them in the frying pan. Add the garlic or garlic powder and chili and let the onions sweat until they are very soft. Take off heat and put aside for the next phase.
Wash and clean your carrots, cutting off the green tops which should be discarded. Put four, possibly even five litres of water in your big pasta pan, chop the carrots, add half the salt and bring to the boil before leaving them to simmer for at least half an hour until the carrots can be mashed into a mush with a fork. If they aren’t soft enough to be mashed, they ain’t ready.
Fine chop Coriander (Cilantro) and enjoy the smell. Dried Coriander or powder simply doesn’t work so well. It’s okay, but not that brilliant.
In suitable batches, depending on your blender or food processor, put the carrots, their cooking liquor and Coriander through blender, adding a large dollop of the onion garlic and chili mash with each batch, decanting each blendeed batch into second large pan until the onion mash and boiled carrots are thoroughly blended.
Put Carrot and Coriander mix on a low to medium heat.
Now put a few tablespoons of water in the cornflour and mix to a milky liquid. As soup mix starts to bubble a little, stir this liquid in until thoroughly mixed. Keep on the heat until you have a smooth, orange liquid dappled with dark green specks. Add rest of salt and black pepper to taste. Serve with bread of choice. A crusty bun is nice.
Let the rest to cool before decanting into a plastic container and putting in the freezer for future use.

For the Asparagus and Parmesan recipe, you will need;

Around 3lbs (2 Bunches) of fresh Asparagus (Providing it’s being sold off cheap)
Two medium onions
A large teaspoon of bacon grease
Half a teaspoon of dried chili flakes or 2 dried chilis
Half a teaspoon of garlic powder or three cloves of garlic (that’s three segments of a bulb)
A teaspoon of salt
Black pepper to taste
4 ounces salted butter
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 ounce grated Parmesan (Or more)
Half a pint (Quarter litre-ish) of milk
Three litres of water (Maybe more, maybe less)
A large pasta pan
A liquidiser or blender
A second large saucepan
A frying pan

Prepare the onion mash as per the carrot and coriander recipe. This forms the base of the soup.
Chop the Asparagus into one inch lengths, cutting off the last quarter inch of the asparagus tips. Put the asparagus tips aside for later. Put the one inch lengths of asparagus into a pan with half the salt and three litres of water. Bring to boil and simmer for half an hour.
Melt butter and mix in Cornflower, add milk and stir thoroughly until a paste is formed, add milk and Parmesan to create a moderate cheesy sauce.
Blend the onion mash, Asparagus and cooking liquor in batches, decant into second pan until all is thoroughly liquidised. Put pan over heat and when bubbles start to rise, begin adding the Parmesan sauce to the onion and Asparagus mix. Add remaining salt and black pepper to taste. Add tips of Asparagus, simmer for half an hour, stirring occasionally. Enjoy with a crusty bun. Put remainder aside to chill in freezer for future use.

Please note; this blog takes no responsibility for failure to observe the most basic of hygiene and safety precautions. They’re your fingers, and dear reader, we sternly admonish you not to cut them off as they will ruin the flavour of the soups. Nor do we accept any responsibility for your failure to keep preparation equipment in a suitable state of repair. Your exploding blenders, burned saucepans, broken utensils, ruined kitchens and subsequent breakups or divorces due to your inattention and carelessness are nothing to do with me. We also take no responsibility for your culinary expertise or lack thereof; we can only assure our reader that a soupcon of common sense will produce results that will be most acceptable.

Have fun. Or not.