Friday 30 September 2016
Chef Q in Paris
Cookery books fall on a continuum between simple collections of recipes to writing about the food that drops occasional hints about how to do something similar yourself. My taste tends towards the latter so, in reviewing the copy of Chef Q in Paris: the Fall Collection, which I got from the LibraryThing EarlyReviewer programme, it starts off on the back foot. I’d not heard of Quemener before and he mainly presents recipes decorated with a small amount of narrative. There is nothing particularly fresh about the idea of cooking with high-quality seasonal ingredients and, to boot, I got a copy for my Kindle so any enticing layout and colour the paper edition might have are lost on me.
Is there anything left to win me round? I think it might suit someone who wants to get a bit of inspiration but with recipes that are easy to follow and not lost in too many words. Quemener is enthusiastic but he also takes the time to offer alternatives when he suggests expensive or rare ingredients. A particularly neat touch was indicating what drinks might go well with the food and, with exquisite attention to detail, what food might go well with the drinks that are also included in the collection.
I have to confess that I haven’t made the acid test of a cookery book and actually tried any of the recipes. Some of them look somewhat simple (blonde ale with maple syrup? pour half a pint of beer on top of 3 tsp maple syrup and stir if necessary) and there aren’t actually that many of them in the book. I counted less than twenty named on the contents page. Even if I had a physical copy, I don’t think it would be likely to become one of the stained and annotated stalwarts of my cookery shelf. Therefore, under the caveat that it isn’t the type of work I’m biased to love, I will hold back from recommending it too highly.
Thursday 29 September 2016
When in a hole, don’t dig, goes the aphorism. It came to mind when I was reading George Monbiot’s latest column, “No fracking, drilling or digging: it’s the only way to save life on earth” (The Guardian, 27 September 2016). He is guilty of overstating the case in his headline as life on earth could happily survive a 20°C rise in global temperatures let alone the 2°C threshold he is writing around. It wouldn’t be human life, though, or certainly not without killing billions and leaving our vaunted civilisations in tatters so I am willing to concede that he is rhetorically correct.
The problem is that fracking is an effective way to allow us to exploit massive untapped reservoirs of hydrocarbons. I don’t think many people are claiming that it doesn’t produce stuff we can burn to produce energy. The problems are the disruption to local communities (human and animal) while the work is going on, the untested question of the long-term geological stability of creating new underground voids and – the point of Monbiot’s article – the fact that feeding our hydrocarbon addiction calamitously contributes to global warming.
As the human race, what we need is not another supply of candy but to start eating a healthier diet. Each time we extract more fuel from under the ground, especially when creating new enterprises to do that, we bring ourselves further into the zone of future adverse consequences.
Wednesday 28 September 2016
The String Project is back! After a break over the summer and resuming rehearsals earlier this month, we’re hitting the boards again this Saturday with a slot at Donnington Community Music Festival, near Donnington Bridge in Oxford. My big choice is going to be whether to break out the double bass or to unleash the six string fretless I’ve been using for recent practices. I think the upright choice is winning although there’s a new tune I need to get under my fingers on it.
The event as whole runs from 2pm – 10pm (free entry) and the band is on shortly after 8pm but there is a whole host of local acts on so plan to turn up early and stay late. Let the tune play!
Tuesday 27 September 2016
I listened to the reports of last night’s US Presidential Election debate. I’ve only heard edited highlights but it sounds like Clinton came out on top. Of course, that is filtered not only through the bias of Radio 4 but also my own assumptions. The real winner of a debate is the one who persuades listeners of their point of view and I suspect a lot of people have not wavered from where they were before. Trump is still appealing to a popular vote; everything he says seems designed to appeal to whoever is sitting in the gallery.
One thing that struck me was his claim that he would significantly reduce the US corporate tax bill down to 15%. I can see that would appeal to a lot of corporate businesses. The question I think Clinton needs to ask is who is going to pay for this? If corporations pay less, are they going to give more to their workers or just claim it as increased profits for the owners? If tax revenue goes down, what is Trump going to cut in order to make up the shortfall?
Looking from the outside, I wonder if he really has a plan for what he will actually do if he wins? In the UK, ‘Brexit’ has been a farce so far – the victorious leavers have dropped many of their promises and really don’t seem to have a consensus on what they actually want to negotiate for. To my mind, that makes a mockery of the referendum. If Trump comes out on top in the US, I think even Brexit will be overshadowed in the ‘they voted for what!?!’ stakes.
Monday 26 September 2016
I had the weirdest piece of junk mail today. An envelope arrived at work containing what looked like a tear-stained, handwritten letter and a shiny ring. A quick skim through and it turns out it was an advert for a piece of computer kit constructed under the premise that the imaginary author was leaving my system for this new and better contender.
It wasn’t amazingly well targeted as I don’t run the original type of system that was the subject of the unfavourable comparison. I’m also not overly inclined to be charitable to the concept of a ‘Dear John’ letter written because the author has decided to go for a better model. As an advertiser’s conceit, it was memorable but also somewhat creepy. From the mistakes in how it was addressed (right name, entirely the wrong address) I suspect that quite a few of my colleagues have also received the same and I hope that none of them is recovering from the trauma of a recent real-life relationship that has been dashed to the ground.
Therefore, I’m not going to spill the beans on who the sender was. Indeed, it was a little hard to fathom the answer and I chose not to look closely enough to firmly pin it down. Still, that metal ring (some kind of shiny, lightweight golden alloy) will come in handy for some kind of craft project in the future.
Sunday 25 September 2016
With my next postgraduate Open University module due to start in just over the month, I qualify as a legitimate student and so tonight I decided to take advantage of the Amazon Prime Student deal. It might be useful if I decide to buy any course books and should also be handy for Christmas but this evening I rose to the heights of watching a couple of streaming films.
Weirdest was Scott Pilgrim vs the World (2010). It clearly showed its debt to its origins as a comic book, with ample use of framing and angles that are familiar in that medium. It reminds me a little of the two Bill and Ted films although modern production tricks push the visual envelope so much further than that pair could achieve. Visually stunning but actually rather violent, I was glad to have finally seen it but, unlike how I avidly watched Bill and Ted, I probably won’t be rushing back to it (but twenty year old me would have been hooked). Man Up (2015) was funny and definitely more romantic. A single woman stumbles into someone else’s blind date; it is a RomCom so you can probably guess the ending.
There is a vague link between the two – the former film was directed by Edgar Wright while the latter starred Simon Pegg and both of them have worked together on some of my favourite films, like the trio of Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007) and The World’s End (2013). Meanwhile, there are more things I want to watch on Prime over the next few months but I’ve got too many other interesting things to do to let myself get too square-eyed.
Saturday 24 September 2016
Time to make tracks for the Jolly Anglers in Reading where I’m playing bass with a jazz group (starting about 8:45 – 9pm I believe). I’m fairly familiar with most of the songs on the list so the music shouldn’t be too fraught although finding a nearby parking space might be. Last time I was down there, I found a slot which I’ll try again; if it is taken, everything else for some distance around looks to be on a ‘residents only from 8pm to 8am’ scheme. Anyway, if I head off now I should have time even if safe parking also means a long walk.
Oh, and the title of this post is a bad pun. Natch!